David Brooks: The Republican Party Is "Radicalized," "And This Is Why We Shouldn't Hand Trump The Nomination"

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PBS NewsHour: New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including a new divide opening up between American conservatives over the popularity and electability of Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, plus former Gov. Sarah Palin’s Trump endorsement and a new campaign ad from Sen. Bernie Sanders.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, you’re saying that Republicans are less tolerant or less warm to the idea of conservatism. They’re willing to tolerate some chaos. But does that mean — does that automatically mean that Trump prevails over these other establishment candidates?

DAVID BROOKS: Not automatically.

I’m still hoping the establishment will get off their rear ends and actually do something and act like an establishment and rally behind one candidate. But you have to say right now, given all the things that have happened this weekend — and, remember, a lot can still happen between now and the caucuses. The final week is like 70 percent of the campaign.

You could see massive swings. And so you’re looking for magic. Who has magic right now? And given all the things that have happened, I don’t think Bob Dole gives Trump a lot of magic, but Sarah Palin gives him a little. And to me…

JUDY WOODRUFF: You do think so?

DAVID BROOKS: … the vibe feels a little like, if there is any magic there, Trump has a little of that magic, and Cruz, even in the polls, is falling slightly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see the Sarah Palin endorsement?

RUTH MARCUS: So, as a general matter, endorsements don’t matter very much.

But this one, from that low baseline, matters a little more than most. First of all, once again, Donald Trump managed to take attention away from everybody else, including Ted Cruz, who needs the attention more, put it on him, Donald Trump.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For several days.

RUTH MARCUS: For several days, and also Sarah Palin.

Also, to the extent that endorsements matter, they matter because they’re validators of something that voters may still have a question about. With Donald Trump — and this is the argument Ted Cruz has been making — the question is, is he a real conservative, can you really trust him to be a conservative, not the guy with New York values?

With Sarah Palin, who may not be convincing to Republicans inside the Beltway, she can speak pretty convincingly to voters in Iowa who, remember, were for Rick Santorum four years ago.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But she also — David, there are some voters who say they absolutely don’t trust her and don’t care what she thinks.

DAVID BROOKS: And this is why we shouldn’t hand Trump the nomination. There is a ceiling there. There is a real ceiling there, especially as we get into the more diverse states.

And so I think, once you get an establishment candidate, a moderate candidate, what we now call moderate, Trump is still very — extremely vulnerable as we get there. If you look at — if you try to break down the party into lanes, which may not be valid anymore, but there’s still 40, 50 percent who are either moderate, have some mixture of conservative and liberal positions, who are just party regulars, not particularly ideological.

And those people, that’s why Romney has won. That’s why McCain has won. That’s why Dole has won nominations. That’s why W. ran with compassionate conservatism. They’re still there. They haven’t disappeared. The party is radicalized, clearly, but Trump and Cruz are both still vulnerable if there’s a single alternative.

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