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Donald Trump Seeks Republican Unity but Finds Rejection

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A hasty effort to make peace between Donald J. Trump and Republican Party leaders veered toward the point of collapse on Friday as Jeb Bush announced he would not back Mr. Trump in the general election and Mr. Trump unleashed a caustic personal attack on a prominent senator who declined to endorse his campaign.

Since a landslide victory in Indiana made him the presumptive Republican nominee, Mr. Trump has faced a shunning from party leaders that is unprecedented in modern politics.

Mr. Trump has struggled to make peace with senior lawmakers and political donors whom he denounced during the Republican primaries, and upon whose largess he must now rely.

In a new sign of the Republican Party’s reservations about Mr. Trump, the top strategist in charge of defending Republican control of the Senate said in a briefing for lobbyists and donors on Thursday that the party’s candidates should feel free to skip the nominating convention in Cleveland in July.

The strategist, Ward Baker, the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said conventions were a distracting spectacle every four years, according to two people who attended the briefing, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the private session.

Mr. Baker, the attendees said, told Republican lawmakers that they would be better off talking to voters in their home states.

Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said it was up to “each individual campaign” to decide whether to attend the convention.

His unexpectedly swift success in the primaries startled Republicans who expected the race to last longer.

A hasty effort to make peace betweenDonald J. Trump and Republican Partyleaders veered toward the point of collapse on Friday as Jeb Bush announced he would not back Mr. Trump in the general election and Mr. Trump unleashed a caustic personal attack on a prominent senator who declined to endorse his campaign.

Since a landslide victory in Indiana made him the presumptive Republican nominee, Mr. Trump has faced a shunning from party leaders that is unprecedented in modern politics.

Mr. Trump has struggled to make peace with senior lawmakers and political donors whom he denounced during the Republican primaries, and upon whose largess he must now rely.

In a new sign of the Republican Party’s reservations about Mr. Trump, the top strategist in charge of defending Republican control of the Senate said in a briefing for lobbyists and donors on Thursday that the party’s candidates should feel free to skip the nominating convention in Cleveland in July.

The strategist, Ward Baker, the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said conventions were a distracting spectacle every four years, according to two people who attended the briefing, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the private session.

Mr. Baker, the attendees said, told Republican lawmakers that they would be better off talking to voters in their home states.

Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said it was up to “each individual campaign” to decide whether to attend the convention.

On Friday, Mr. Bush’s disavowal of Mr. Trump landed as a bitter blow. The former Florida governor is revered among party veterans and has one of the most powerful fund-raising networks in Republican politics.

In a statement, Mr. Bush said his former opponent lacked the “temperament or strength of character” to serve as president.

Mr. Bush’s father and brother, George Bush and George W. Bush, announced earlier in the week that they would not endorse Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump said at a rally in Omaha that he was untroubled by the Bush family’s opposition, and he repeated his past mockery of Jeb Bush as a “low-energy person.” “I’m not surprised at the Bush family, in all fairness, because I’ve been very critical of what happened,” Mr. Trump said.

He reacted with fury to another statement of rejection, from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Mr. Graham, a long time Trump critic who briefly ran for president last year, said Friday that Mr. Trump was unfit to be commander in chief.

The populist Manhattan businessman responded with a statement savaging Mr. Graham, a senior spokesman for the party on national security.

Mr. Trump boasted that he had “destroyed his hapless run for president” and consigned Mr. Graham to the political ash heap.

“While I will unify the party, Lindsey Graham has shown himself to be beyond rehabilitation,” Mr. Trump said.

In Omaha, Mr. Trump branded Mr. Graham “nasty” and called his campaign “a disgrace.”

Mr. Trump’s belittling attack poses a new challenge for a party already riven by frustration and indecision over his campaign.

Having campaigned for the Republican nomination on a platform of cracking down on immigration and foreign trade, Mr. Trump now trails Hillary Clinton in general election polls and cannot afford an exodus of voters from the Republican base.

While Mr. Trump’s war on the Republican establishment has galvanized his supporters, it is likely to complicate his efforts to court a broader array of voters, including moderate Republicans, and political benefactors in order to compete in November.

Mr. Trump has acknowledged he will need help from the party’s traditional bankrollers during the general election, when he has said he will no longer finance his campaign from his personal fortune.

He has appeared uncertain of how to respond to the prospect of mass defections from inside the Republican Party. He has said in recent weeks that he favors party unity as a practical matter, but that there are also Republicans whose support he does not believe he needs — and whose support he would not welcome.

Dan Senor, a former adviser to Mitt Romney and Paul D. Ryan in the 2012 election, said Mr. Trump’s dismissive attitude toward his critics could have crippling consequences in a general election.

“They’re still trying to project this mind-set that they’re blowing up the place, blowing up the institution,” Mr. Senor said. “But now they’re talking to 120 or 130 million voters, not a few million in a few states.”

 

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