The Republican Party faces a moment of truth before it nominates a presidential candidate, Laura Ingraham said in Buffalo on Friday.
“We know what has happened when we’ve nominated a moderate, establishment, button-down, acceptable Republican in the last two presidential election cycles,” the radio talk show host and political commentator told 350 party leaders gathered at the Lexus Club at First Niagara Center for a $125-per-person lunch.
The event was part of the New York State Republican Convention.
Ingraham said she could not remember the last time a Republican candidate filled stadiums and attracted so many people as Donald Trump has at his rallies. She stopped short of endorsing a candidate, but said she would support the eventual Republican nominee.
“I think we have three people who could be really good leaders,” she said, as she named Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Trump.
“I think all three of them have different talents, I think all three of them have a lot to offer.”
No one should be surprised at the Trump phenomenon, said Ingraham, an author, a regular contributor to the Fox News Channel and a substitute host on the “O’Reilly Factor.”
“Who do you think created Trump? Trump didn’t just come from nowhere. He stepped into a vacuum that many of us talked about four years ago,” she said.
Two issues – immigration and trade – profoundly affect the middle class and many of those supporting Trump, she said, adding it is not surprising that establishment candidates are not doing well.
“We must demonstrate to the public that we are not the party of the super rich and the super well-connected,” she said.
“We are the party of people like the people I grew up with, like my family,” she said.
She said the Republican party has a “huge credibility problem,” because it has been “tethered to big corporations and the donor class” for a long time.
“They’ve done really well,” she said, “but the people haven’t.”
If the GOP nominates an establishment candidate, presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will be the “populist alternative,” Ingraham said.
And the track record of the Democratic establishment been one of division, demoralization and destruction, “packaged in a bunch of clichés about hope,” she added.
She called Clinton one of the most vulnerable candidates she could envision.
Ingraham also suggested there has to be compromise for Republicans to get to the “Promised Land” of victory in November. “We know what happened when we ran a Bush against a Clinton before,” she said.
The party should ask itself what has worked, and what hasn’t worked before, she said.
She urged party members to strongly support GOP senatorial candidate Wendy Long, in her address, saying they’ve known each other 30 years and went to school together at Dartmouth.