Trip Gabriel’s NYT story yesterday concludes as follows:
“I think the establishment will do anything in their power to try to stop Donald Trump at the national convention,” said John Patrick Yob, the former delegate strategist for Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who dropped out of the race on Feb. 3.
That could include changing rules that bind delegates to candidates, said Mr. Yob, One of the first orders of business at the national convention in Cleveland in July will be a meeting by the rules committee to determine guidelines for the proceedings.
Delegates may not personally support the candidates they are bound to represent, based on their state’s primary or caucus results. If they are “unbound” by a rule change, or after a first ballot in which no candidate wins a majority, the nominating fight could crack wide open on the convention floor.
Water Shapiro in Roll Call:
But the stakes in Cleveland in July would be infinitely greater — with the threat of the first takeover of a modern political party by an authoritarian who traffics in racism and exudes contempt for the First Amendment. Under these circumstances, there would be nothing anti-democratic about GOP leaders using every mechanism in their power to stop Trump. Gaming the rules, after all, is what Ronald Reagan tried against Jerry Ford in 1976.
It is worth remembering that — even with a delegate lead or a majority — Trump would face built-in disadvantages in Cleveland. Paul Ryan would be the convention chair and other GOP insiders would probably control relevant committees like convention rules and party platform. In some states, Trump does not get to pick his delegates slates, but instead is saddled with party stalwarts of dubious loyalty.
Would Republicans do this to block Trump, especially if it means going against the majority of party voters? On the one hand, if the calculation is that Trump would lose no matter what, then this might be a way to save the Republican brand even if Trump at that point tried to mount an independent campaign (and it is not clear based on timing that he’d be able to pull that off from the convention forward). On the other hand, what wrath would Republican leaders face from the rank-and-file, and from the Tea Party folks, if they deprived folks of the nomination? What would the repercussions be for the party leadership? It looks quite risky.
My gut tells me that if Trump actually gets a majority of the delegates, Republicans would not kill his nomination at the convention but instead individual Republicans would distance themselves from Trump. They’d drop him like a “hot rock” if necessary, as Sen. McConnell put it.