CLEVELAND—It was a question no Republican here wanted to contemplate.
The query alone elicited winces, scoffs, and more than a couple threats of suicide. “I would choose to shoot myself,” one delegate from Texas replied. “You want cancer or a heart attack?” cracked another from North Carolina.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have each been objects of near histrionic derision from Republicans for years (decades in Clinton’s case), but never more so than during the four days of the GOP’s national convention. Republicans onstage at Quicken Loans Arena and in the dozens of accompanying events have accused President Obama of literally destroying the country in his eight years in the White House. Speakers and delegates subjected Clinton to even harsher rhetoric, charging her with complicity in death and mayhem and then repeatedly chanting, “Lock her up!” from the convention floor.
But what if Republicans were forced to pick between them? What if the choice on the ballot this fall were not Clinton or Donald Trump but a Clinton presidency or four more years of Obama? Which would they choose?
My informal, completely unscientific survey of more than two dozen delegates and guests in Cleveland found that Republicans were just as divided over this lesser-of-two-evils scenario as they were in their yearlong party primary. About half said they would reluctantly stick with Obama because while they vehemently disagreed with his policies, they viewed him as more honest than Clinton, a Democrat they considered not only liberal but corrupt and criminal. “He’s upfront,” said Judy Ward, a state representative from Pennsylvania. “He’s liberal, but you know that.” On the other hand, she called Clinton “frightening” and said she would “do whatever it took to get elected.”