Bret Baier asked Charles Krauthammer point blank: “Is Donald Trump now the de facto leader of the Republican party no matter what happens?” Citing Trump’s ability to fashion a new movement, Krauthammer answered in the affirmative:
I think he is. This is not a Michael Dukakis. Let’s assume he loses — look, he can win, but let’s assume he loses — he’s not a Michael Dukakis, he’s not walking away. He’s not a Bob Dole who’s going to retire. This is a man who, as he says, created a movement out of nothing. He basically fashioned a populist faction in the Republican party, took over the party, at least in this cycle, and then the question will be: Is he going to walk away and go back and become a businessman? I doubt it. It’s very hard to do. And the fact is he will be the power broker.
I see the party sort of splitting in two. At least in theory, the populist element that he has now created and mobilized — winning more Republican votes in the primaries than any candidate in history, he would have won at least 40 percent, somewhere in the forties, of the national election electorate — yes, he’s a force. The other side, I think, will be led by Paul Ryan, representing the traditional party, the Reaganite party, the wonkish party, programmatic party, and conservative party, which is different from populism. And if Trump wants — which I think he will; he will have created something, why will he leave it behind? — he leads that faction and can become the de facto leader. I think the test is going to be: Can he bring down Paul Ryan? Who will be — if Trump loses — will be scapegoated to some extent in the loss, and will be the leader of the rival faction. If he is able to get behind a movement to deny Ryan the speakership, he becomes the de facto leader, and a force in the party for the next years while they are in the wilderness, if that’s the outcome.