It’s no secret that longtime Florida Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich doesn’t like Donald Trump. This week he became the latest Florida GOP official to publicly back Democrat Hilary Clinton for President. Stipanovich shares his thoughts on the state of the Grand Old Party, and where it goes after this election.
When we began this interview, Stipanovich had just finished speaking with NPR’s Morning Edition. The first thing he said was, “by the way, in case you didn’t know I just said something I never said before—that I was going to vote for Hilary Clinton."
It’s a statement sure to give Stipanovich’s critics fits. Stipanovich has long been a staple in Republican party politics in Florida. He’s been a campaign manager for Jeb Bush, he has lobbied for the sugar industry, and advised former Secretary of State Katherine Harris during the 2000 presidential election and Florida recount. Back in May, Stipanovich penned an open letter to Republicans and called Trump quote: “a boor, a bully, a carnival barker, and an embarrassment,” among other things. Now five months and two presidential debates later, his opinion of Trump has not improved.
“To think about what gets said now and has no apparent affect, it’s unbelievable. It's like we’ve gone through the looking glass.”
Stipanovich says he’s beginning to wonder how his party will emerge on the other side. More Republicans are withdrawing their support of Trump. Others like Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, have condemned the candidate's words, but have yet to fully step back from him. And Stipanovich says that kind of teetering is cowardly. He calls Rubio one of the worst offenders.
“Marco is a smart man. He’s a young man, he's got plenty of time to grow. But to see someone stand up and say that Donald Trump is reprehensible for this reason, I disagree for that reason...but I'm going to vote for him--it's beyond disappointing, its demoralizing."
Still, he says the party’s troubles will not end on Election Day. The divides this presidential election has exposed on both sides will be lasting. But For Republicans, it may be deeper.
“There will have to be a series of elections, 2018, 2020. The Republican Party is going to be different two or three elections than it is now. Will it be a center right party based on conservative principles, which means the most rabid Trump-type people be weeded out? I don't know," he says.
"Will those center-right conservatives leave the Republican Party and become independents and leave what is the wreckage of the GOP to the rabid Trump-types? That’s a possibility too.
Stipanovich doesn’t know the answer to that. But he’s certain in his belief that Donald Trump should not be elected.
“Listen to what this man says. Think about how dangerous he is. Think about the poison he could inject into the body politic of America from the vantage point of the Oval office. He is dangerous.”
But it’s not up to Stipanovich. That decision will be in the hands of voters. But for many watchers, Election Day—November 8th, can’t come soon enough.