Donald Trump assumed control of the Republican Party on Wednesday as its presumptive presidential nominee after Ohio Gov. John Kasich exited the race, moving swiftly to consider vice-presidential prospects and plan for what is expected to be a costly and vicious six-month battle for the White House against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump, who has proudly touted how he has self-funded his campaign, said he would begin actively seeking donations for his campaign and raise money for the national party, part of the arduous task of coalescing a party deeply divided over his toxic brand of politics.

Party leaders are scrambling to stave off a parade of prominent Republicans endorsing Clinton, but already there were notable defections. The two living Republican past presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, have no plans to endorse Trump, according to their spokesmen.

In the swing state of Nevada, Gov. Brian Sandoval, a moderate Republican and rising Latino star, said he plans to vote for Trump despite their disagreements on some issues. But Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, who is up for reelection in November, said that “I vehemently oppose our nominee” because he disparaged women, Hispanics and veterans – although Heller insisted he would not vote for Clinton.

Democrats rushed to exploit the moment. The Clinton campaign released a brutal video mash-up of Republican rivals condemning his character and fitness for office, while the former secretary of state called him “a loose cannon” and invited Republicans and independents seeking an alternative to Trump to join her.

“Let’s get off the red or the blue team. Let’s get on the American team,” Clinton said on CNN.


In states coast to coast, meanwhile, Democrats tried to link embattled Republican senators and other officeholders to Trump in hopes that the shrapnel from his polarizing candidacy would impair Republicans down the ballot. Some Republicans tried to keep mum about Trump, and others gave puzzling statements that sought to walk a tightrope between embracing him and distancing themselves from him.

As some conservative commentators lit up social media with images of burning Republican Party registration cards, some party elders called for a healing process and sought to quiet talk of an independent protest candidacy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) stood with Trump. “As the presumptive nominee, he now has the opportunity and the obligation to unite our party around our goals,” McConnell said in a statement.

Trump said he was hardly fretting about whether leading Republicans, such as 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, would eventually back him.

“I believe that the people are going to vote for the person,” Trump said in an interview. “They love their party, but until this year the party was going in the wrong direction. … We’ve made the party much bigger.”

Trump spent Wednesday holed up in his soaring New York skyscraper, plotting ways to repair his image and destroy the opponent he calls “Crooked Hillary.” He said he was shell-shocked by his sudden emergence as the Republican standard-bearer, having anticipated that his fight with Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Kasich would continue until June’s California nominating contest. Both left the race in the wake of Trump’s resounding primary win Tuesday in Indiana.

With Kasich and Cruz out, Trump and his advisers began making decisions about the general election. Though he has repeatedly touted his ability to self-finance his campaign, Trump said that he would seek donations going forward, especially small-dollar contributions from grass-roots supporters.

Trump acknowledged that he would have to liquidate some of his real estate holdings to muster the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to self-fund a credible fall campaign. “I mean, do I want to sell a couple of buildings and self-fund? I don’t know that I want to do that necessarily,” Trump said on MSNBC.

So far, Trump has given or loaned his campaign more than $36 million and accepted an additional $12 million in donations.

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