Viguerie: establishment will do 'whatever is necessary' to stop Trump
In an interview with AMI Newswire, The 82 year-old Viguerie said Trump's fight with the Party is commonplace, as there are "always efforts to stop the leader" in presidential races.
Viguerie noted that in the GOP's 1964 presidential race, opposition to then-Sen. Barry Goldwater's presidential bid extended beyond his nomination victory into the general election.
"There was a 'Stop Goldwater' effort at the convention that year, but even though it failed, [Michigan Gov. George] Romney and [New York Gov. Nelson] Rockefeller did everything they could to undermine Goldwater after he won the nomination. And in that, they succeeded."
Presidential historian Richard Norton Smith told AMI Newswire that the Republican battles of today are echoes of those in the 1960s, but the aims of the candidates are much different.
"Goldwater [in 1964] was always more interested in taking over the party, making it a thoroughly conservative instrument, than he was in winning the White House for himself," Smith said.
"My hunch is that with Trump, the opposite holds true."
Viguerie, who supports Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the current GOP nomination battle, said the enmity shown Trump also includes Cruz.
"The establishment doesn't want Cruz either," Viguerie said. "They prefer [Ohio Gov. John] Kasich, or someone who hasn't run in the primaries to carry their banner in the general election."
A number of alternative names to the current crop of Republican candidates have been floated in the case of a contested convention, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, House Speaker Paul Ryan and retired Marine Gen. James Mattis.
Viguerie contends that the Republican establishment doesn't care if nominating a candidate who hasn't run in the primaries tears the party apart.
"They will soldier on," Viguerie said.
"For them, alienating the Republican base is not a disaster," he said. "It worked for them in 1964. Republicans lost that election badly. But four years later, the establishment ran and won with Richard Nixon, and managed to get Ford the nomination in 1976."
"It took conservatives 16 years before they took control of the Party with Ronald Reagan," Viguerie said.
Viguerie also dismissed the public efforts of some conservatives to stop Trump from winning the nomination.
On his radio show Friday, syndicated talk show host Mark Levin, a supporter of Ted Cruz, said "I am not voting for Donald Trump. Period."
Viguerie said these public efforts pale compared to those who are working behind the scenes to prevent a Trump win.
"Trent Lott, Bob Dole, the Bush family — these are the people who run the Party and they aren't used to losing," Viguerie said. "They will do whatever is necessary to stop Trump, and they don't play by any rules but their own."
Viguerie chastised Trump for "complaining" about the tactics used to deny him delegates, as occurred in the Colorado caucuses last weekend, when state party leaders awarded 13 delegates to Sen. Cruz, in addition to the 21 he already won, or to flip delegates to another candidate at the convention.
At a campaign event in New York after the Colorado delegate decision, Trump said the GOP was trying to "subvert the movement with crooked shenanigans."
Trump's new campaign aide, Paul Manafort, accused the Cruz campaign of employing "gestapo tactics" to flip delegates in states that have already voted.
"Trump has made a fortune by playing hardball," Viguerie said. "But he doesn't like it when other people do it to him."
Viguerie said efforts underway in several states to elect pro-Cruz delegates to the GOP's national convention, even though Trump may have carried those states in the primary, is "good, smart, politics."
"It's exactly what Cruz should be doing if the convention is contested," Viguerie said. "It gives him the opportunity to win if the voting goes beyond the first ballot."