Wary of Donald Trump, G.O.P. Leaders Are Caught in a Standoff By JONATHAN MARTINDEC. 1, 2015 619 COMMENTS Photo

Wary of Donald Trump, G.O.P. Leaders Are Caught in a Standoff
By JONATHAN MARTINDEC. 1, 2015 619 COMMENTS
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Donald J. Trump at a campaign rally in Macon, Ga., on Monday. Many leading Republican officials, strategists and donors are concerned that Mr. Trump has an increasingly plausible chance of winning the nomination. Credit Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times
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WASHINGTON — For months, much of the Republican Party’s establishment has been uneasy about the rise of Donald J. Trump, concerned that he was overwhelming the presidential primary contest and encouraging other candidates to mimic his incendiary speech. Now, though, irritation is giving way to panic as it becomes increasingly plausible that Mr. Trump could be the party’s standard-bearer and imperil the careers of other Republicans.

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Many leading Republican officials, strategists and donors now say they fear that Mr. Trump’s nomination would lead to an electoral wipeout, a sweeping defeat that could undo some of the gains Republicans have made in recent congressional, state and local elections. But in a party that lacks a true leader or anything in the way of consensus — and with the combative Mr. Trump certain to scorch anyone who takes him on — a fierce dispute has arisen about what can be done to stop his candidacy and whether anyone should even try.

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Some of the highest-ranking Republicans in Congress and some of the party’s wealthiest and most generous donors have balked at trying to take down Mr. Trump because they fear a public feud with the insult-spewing media figure. Others warn that doing so might backfire at a time of soaring anger toward political insiders.

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Interactive Graphic: Who’s Winning the Presidential Campaign?
That has led to a standoff of sorts: Almost everyone in the party’s upper echelons agrees something must be done, and almost no one is willing to do it.

With his knack for offending the very constituencies Republicans have struggled with in recent elections, women and minorities, Mr. Trump could be a millstone on his party if he won the nomination. He is viewed unfavorably by 64 percent of women and 74 percent of nonwhite voters, according to a November ABC News/Washington Post poll. Such unpopularity could not only doom his candidacy in November but also threaten the party’s tenuous majority in the Senate, hand House seats to the Democrats and imperil Republicans in a handful of governor’s races.

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In states with some of the most competitive Senate contests, the concern is palpable, especially after weeks in which Mr. Trump has made a new series of inflammatory statements.

“If he carries this message into the general election in Ohio, we’ll hand this election to Hillary Clinton — and then try to


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