I don’t know that this is going to allay many of the concerns raised by the base over the prospects of what will happen in Cleveland this summer, but Time Magazine did an interview with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus on the subject and put a few relevant questions to him. Of particular interest is his take on how he views the current frontrunner, how Trump might fare in the general election and, perhaps most importantly, if Trump would get a fair shake at the convention.
The first comment was in response to the question of how Trump would fare in the general election.
So you need the right candidate to get you in field-goal range. Are you worried that any candidates now can’t get there?
No, I think it’s the opposite. I think that we’ve got sort of the varsity team of candidates out there. I think any one of our candidates can plug into what we’re building and win a cultural vote in this country. And that’s our job. Our job is to make sure whoever that they’ve got something that’s far better than what we had four, eight years ago, and we do.
To be fair, the reporter doesn’t actually say Trump’s name in that question, but from the ones leading up to it you can see it’s pretty obvious that’s who they’re talking about. I thought Reince did a pretty good job of making it clear that he still just intends to be the referee and isn’t going to play favorites. And if Trump’s the guy, then he’s going to take the ball and run with it.
But that all depends on Trump not only winning the most votes and delegates in the primary battles, but actually getting the nomination. If The Donald doesn’t have enough for a clear win on the first ballot we may wind up in a floor fight. What happens then?
Some supporters of Donald Trump and others have suggested that the RNC could rig the convention. Either way you’re putting a lot of faith in the convention committees.
Any candidate can come and get a lesson on what the rules are — the RNC and the convention. The rules are the rules, they’re written, they’re clear, and they’re going to be followed. There really isn’t — if someone has a majority of delegates in order to win the nomination, they’re going to be the nominee. The only question is if that isn’t the case, then you’re taking floor votes. And I think that’s highly unlikely, but that’s what would happen if it did.
What of those concerns about fixing the system?
Ultimately if you’ve got the votes on the floor, you’re going to be the nominee. And I think people who’ve known me as chairman — now in my sixth year — I’m about as straight up as anyone that’s anyone that’s ever sat in this office. I don’t think too many people look at me as a game player, and I’m certainly not hanging out on K-street at cocktail receptions.
Again, it’s a good answer but probably not exactly what the base was looking for in terms of clarification. Yes, there are rules in place which anyone can read and the Chairman can (and presumably will) ensure that those rules are followed. But the rules allow for a lot of shenanigans in the event of a brokered situation. Let’s say that Trump (or even Cruz) came into Cleveland with 44% of the awarded delegates. There are still a lot of other votes out there. On the first round they would theoretically have to vote for the person assigned in the primary, but if nobody gets to fifty all bets are off. A deal could be struck where they all jumped behind Jeb or Marco or Christie or whoever and the next round of voting would put the outsider out on the sidewalk and set an establishment choice in as the nominee.
What would Reince Priebus do in that event? Or perhaps more to the point, could he even do anything if he wanted to? It doesn’t sound like it to me.