The polls are making it more and more clear that election night will not be a landslide win for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. For the Republicans, that means that either Trump is going to lose a close election or he will win a close election. And because the race is so tight, the GOP leaders not enthusiastically and publicly backing their nominee will be in serious trouble if they do not get on the Trump train right now.
It might already be too late for some of those Republicans, especially people like Ohio Governor John Kasich who has already said he didn't vote for Trump. But for those who haven't irreversibly denied their support, now is the time to step up. The new base of the Republican Party will not forgive any elected GOP leader who did not stand with Trump in a razor thin loss.
And the Trump team itself will most likely ignore and punish non-supportive Republicans in Washington if he wins. The polls show a strong movement of hold-out Republicans are now "coming home" to vote for Trump. Suddenly, not supporting the nominee publicly is looking like a big lose/lose for politicians who wants GOP votes.
That's a shift from the general assumption over the summer and at times this fall that Trump was likely going down in flames in a blowout loss. In that scenario, it made lots of sense for House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Ted Cruz, and everyone with a leadership position in the Republican Congress to stay more than an arm's length from Trump at all times.
Now, the only voters Ryan, McConnell and the rest of the Republicans need to worry about are the enduring and surging Trump supporters. If Trump loses in a close election, they will almost surely punish the GOP leaders who did not show enough support for their man. Simply put: they will blame them for Trump's loss.
And if Trump wins, things could be even worse for them. A Trump administration will need allies on Capitol Hill, but a President Trump could very easily bypass Republicans who didn't back him and try to work with Democrats instead. That's especially true when it comes to Trump's policies that Republicans have opposed, like nixing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and raising the minimum wage.