Jeb Bush has floated the idea of Donald Trump being a Hillary Clinton plant to help her take the White House, and seemingly never-ending Trump controversies might have Republicans starting to believe it. Politico reports that GOP leaders are stressing out about the negative impact that Trump's candidacy is having on their party, noting that their "fear is palpable and bursting into public view." Republicans were already anticipating losses in 2016, expecting to relinquish 12 or so seats in the House and forced to defend 24 seats in the Senate, versus the Democrats' 10 seats. "[Trump's actions are] not what we're about as a party … and we cannot yield to this," says Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, head of the committee that elects GOPers to the House. "It puts … competitive seats in jeopardy. We'll have a much more difficult time."
Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers goes further, telling Politico a Trump nomination would be "devastating" for the GOP. Part of the conundrum: Republicans are afraid to go too hard after Trump—whom the New York Times labeled a "deeply polarizing figure" months ago—for fear of alienating his fervent base. That leaves some GOPers dealing with fallout from every Trump move (instead of putting energy into attacking Hillary Clinton, for example), while others are doing everything they can to avoid talking about him altogether. "Winning elections is an exercise in addition, not subtraction," Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent tells Politico. "When comments are made that are so divisive that alienate women, Hispanics, the disabled, Muslims—it ... limits your ability to win. It's that simple." The usually verbose Trump isn't revealing what he thinks of the havoc he's wreaking: An email from Politico to his rep went unanswered. (Politico and the Hill called it earlier this year.)