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Republicans are not obliged to commit suicide this summer in Cleveland. Unlike the Democrats, who are seemingly locked to a widely unpopular presidential nominee, the GOP still has a chance to avoid disaster.

Donald Trump’s campaign is riding a high coming out of a near sweep of New York’s delegates last week. But he’s had momentum before and lost it. The magic number of 1,237 is still a far reach — he’s got to capture nearly 60 percent of the remaining delegates to get there and John Kasich and Ted Cruz aren’t going away.

If he doesn’t make the number, it should be game over for Trump. Republicans should not be bullied into accepting that close is good enough.

Let Trump whine about a “rigged system.” He knew what he had to do to secure the nomination outright, and if he falls short it’s his fault. He can’t claim a right he didn’t earn.

Nor should the party feel that if not Trump, the nominee must be Cruz, who should arrive at the Republican National Convention in July with the second-most delegates. Same goes for him as for Trump. He didn’t get there.

Trump, in his passive-aggressive way, has fretted publicly that if he isn’t handed the nomination in Cleveland things could get ugly, suggesting riots in the style of Chicago in ’68. That won’t happen. Trump supporters are ardent, but they aren’t anarchists.

Nor should the GOP give weight to the worry that the voters Trump has brought into the primaries will stay home in November if they feel their man was cheated. They probably will.

But what difference does it make if the GOP loses a third of its support by not standing Trump as its nominee, or a third of real Republicans who say they can’t and won’t vote for Trump? A candidate who isn’t bone crazy like Trump, or creepy like Cruz, would at least have a better shot at attracting the votes of independents and those Democrats who can’t stomach Clinton.

This week, the percentage of voters who have a negative view of Hillary Clinton hit 55 percent, according to an AP-GfK poll. That should mean Republicans have a smooth ride to the White House. Except the same poll finds 63 percent of registered voters would definitely not vote for Trump.

Knowing that he’s not only a sure loser but would likely lose by an epic landslide, nominating Trump, if there is an opportunity to do otherwise at the convention, would be hara-kiri for Republicans. If your presidential candidate is defeated by a 2-1 margin, it will wipe out Republican candidates down to the very tip of the ballot.

Trump himself has given the party an escape hatch. This week, he and his team admitted that much of what he has presented on the campaign trail is all an act. Those social conservatives who think Trump is a bite of the old cheese should have been shocked to hear him admit he’s pandering on a number of issues dear to the religious right, and doesn’t really mean all he says.

Trump’s biggest draw has been his claim to authenticity. Turns out, he’s little different from Hillary Clinton in that he’ll say whatever he must to get elected.

The only thing real about Trump is that he’ll be an authentic loser in November. Republicans don’t have to go there.

Nolan Finley’s “Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice,” is available from Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble Nook.

nfinley@detroitnews.com

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