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Col. Larry Wilkerson describes how Trump’s appeal to frustrated right-wing voters may secure the nomination on Tuesday

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. On March 15, the Republican party will hold five pivotal contests in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina. With 360 delegates at stake collectively, these particular primaries are especially important because three of the states, Florida, Misouri, and Ohio, are winner-take-all states. As it stands now, Donald Trump is the leader in the all-important delegate count with 460, but needs approximately 770 more pledges to clinch the Republican nomination. Senator Ted Cruz is behind with 370 delegate pledges, while Rubio and Kasich are trailing behind him with 163 and 63 respectively. In the last several weeks, prominent Republicans like Mitt Romney of the 2012 presidential race, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker have all spoken out against Trump’s candidacy. There has also been a lot of talk that the Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich campaigns working with each other might help to trump Trump from securing the delegates that he needs in order to move forward. So what is really going on in the Republican primary? On to discuss all of this is Lawrence Wilkerson. He’s a registered Republican. Larry is the former chief of staff for the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and he’s currently an adjunct professor of government at the College of William and Mary, and of course he’s a regular at the Real News Network. Larry, as always, thank you so much for joining us today. LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Sharmini. PERIES: So, Larry, how real is this effort to keep Trump from nailing the Republican nomination? Could there be a brokered convention, and how much of this depends on the results tomorrow? WILKERSON: I think it’s very real. I think the Republican establishment, as it were, would not like to see Donald Trump be their candidate in 2016 for president. This is rather ironic since, as anyone who knows the history of the Republican party, as I do, knows, it has produced Donald Trump. It produced the deal that Nixon effected, the so-called [inaud.] began to invite this group into the Republican party which has now manifested itself in the production of Donald Trump. So people like Mitch McConnell and Jeff Sessions and Lindsey Graham and a host of others gnash their teeth over Donald Trump; they produced him. The Republican party is reaping he seeds that they sowed over the last, roughly, half-century. So it’s really, it’s kind of risible to watch these people complain now about Donald Trump. PERIES: All right. So give us a sense of what the scenarios might be if Trump comes out winning tomorrow in a big way, landing more delegates than any of the other candidates. WILKERSON: If he wins in a significant way, that is to say, his delegate count dwarfs everyone else, then the only alternative these Republican elites have with regard to derailing Trump as their candidate for 2016 is to go into the convention and do an old-fashioned behind the scenes, or in front of the scenes, possibly, on the convention floor, redistribution of delegates. That would come about through various convention procedures that are so archaic I couldn’t even–I’m not even sure I understand them. But there could be a convention fight, as it were and then we would have a new candidate. I think that would create a real problem, though, for the Republican party, and it would have a ghost’s chance of winning the White House in November if that were to be the case. I think probably the most likely thing we will see is a lot of holding of noses, and Republicans will coalesce behind Trump with a more savory, if you will, vice presidential candidate, perhaps one of those we’re seeing right now in the limelight, and go for broke against Hillary or Bernie in the general election in November. PERIES: And Larry, one of the interesting things about Trump is while he fashions himself as a staunch conservative, interestingly enough his policies are not very conservative when it comes to issues like Planned Parenthood, Israel-Palestine debate, for example, and a populist critique he has of the free trade deals. Assess these positions, and do you think these have anything to do with the momentum he’s having among Republicans? WILKERSON: I think what we’re seeing, and I hate to quote Ralph Reed, but he was asked a question on NPR this morning that he answered disingenuously, but also somewhat accurately, about why Trump appeals to evangelicals. And I think the general answer that he gave was probably fairly accurate, and that is that these people are, whether they be evangelicals or other members of the right-wing of the Republican party, these people are frustrated with the Republicans they’ve had who promised them everything with regard to reversing Roe v. Wade, to cutting the government, or cutting defense budget or keeping budget up, depending on which section of them you look at, and all the other promises they’ve made that haven’t come to fruition. And so they’re very frustrated, and they’re frustrated over other issues that they can’t quite put a name to, but nonetheless they’re there, like their own job security, their own position within society and so forth. The fact minorities, especially dark-skinned minorities, seem to be taking over the country that they feel ought to be white Anglo-Saxon-Protestant, and maybe a little Catholic. They’re frustrated over these issues, and they don’t see the Republicans delivering on them. And so they’re turning to Trump, who appeals at various times to each one of these issues, and there’s no consistency or continuity to it, but he appeals to these issues in a way that reverberates with these people, and so they’re following him right now, much to the chagrin, as I said earlier, of the Republican elite who created Trump just as surely as they [nursed a new baby into birth]. PERIES: And so your predictions for tomorrow? WILKERSON: I think probably what we’re going to see is Trump getting a delegate count that’s going to make his position look all that more unassailable, except as I said, by some manoeuvers at the convention, if they’re willing to do that. I could be wrong. He could be falling off now, and could lose votes when people actually go into the booth and cast their vote. But I think we’re going to see him with not as many as he might think and hope for, but probably enough to carry him on through. The less he has, of course, even if it is a majority, it’s going to make it easier to derail him at the convention. By the way, Sharmini, let me say that as a Republican, I wouldn’t vote for any of the current cast, not Rubio, not Cruz, not Trump. I probably would vote for trump before I would vote for those other two. The only one in the Republican cast that I would vote for, and it says something again about where the Republican party is, is John Kasich, and I don’t see he has a chance except maybe being picked for someone’s Vice President. PERIES: All right, Larry. We’ll be watching, as I’m sure you will be. Thanks so much for joining us today. WILKERSON: Thanks for having me. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy

Lawrence Wilkerson's last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02). Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army. During that time, he was a member of the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College (1987 to 1989), Special Assistant to General Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia (1993-97). Wilkerson retired from active service in 1997 as a colonel, and began work as an advisor to General Powell. He has also taught national security affairs in the Honors Program at the George Washington University. He is currently working on a book about the first George W. Bush administration.