RNC weighs scrapping procedural rules at convention to head off … anti-Trump maneuvers?

posted at 12:01 pm on March 17, 2016 by Allahpundit

These aren’t the rules relating to whether delegates are bound or not, as Jazz wrote about earlier. These are procedural rules — how action on the floor will operate. The idea is to make the process more transparent so that, if Trump is denied the nomination, his fans will have less cause to complain about backroom chicanery. (Realistically, there’s no way Trump will be denied the nomination.)

That raises a question. Do these people … know any Trump fans? No amount of procedural hygiene is going to make them less riot-y if Caesar is denied his tribute. You could have the sleaziest, most dubious smoke-filled-room machinations happening behind the scenes and so long as Trump emerges the winner, the process will be deemed “good.” That’s Trumpism in a nutshell.

Some members of the Republican National Committee want to ditch the massive rule book, which is based on the parliamentary handbook of the U.S. House, and instead use Robert’s Rules of Order to govern floor action at the convention. Robert’s is the standard manual used by entities such as civic associations, county boards and state legislatures…

Kansas RNC member Helen Van Etten, a member of the RNC’s Standing Rules Committee, said she will vote for the change to Robert’s Rules, which “our party’s grass roots have been using to conduct business at the county party, state party and national party levels for many years. Unlike the 1,500-page U.S. House rules, there are in Robert’s no surprises that will prevent the kind of chaos media are predicting.”…

Under the current parliamentary system, if the convention is deadlocked over a nominee on Thursday, it wouldn’t be able to suspend the rules to work out a solution. The U.S. House rules allow suspension only on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of a week, Mr. Yue said. Robert’s Rules has no such constrictions…

“No one knows U.S. House rules, and so that creates suspicion and uncertainty among the delegates — and the chaos we want to avoid,” Mr. Bopp said. “People don’t know what they can and can’t do and are afraid others who do know will hoodwink them.”

“We’ve been operating on the assumption that the Republican party apparatus doesn’t want Trump,” writes Karol Markowicz. “But what if they do?” That does seem to be the takeaway here. In fact, the Washington Times story quoted above cites several RNC members as saying the party leadership’s begun to soften on the idea of him as nominee. That’s the only way these rule changes make sense, really: Extra transparency won’t make the result look any more legitimate to Trump or his supporters if he ends up losing, but it should make it harder for anti-Trumpers to steal the nomination from him outright through procedural sleight of hand in order to prevent a Trumpist takeover of the GOP.

In particular, notes the Times, this should make it easier for all sides to follow the tug of war to come over Rule 40, which says that no candidate can have his name placed in nomination unless he’s won a majority of delegates in eight states. Trump is the only candidate who’s met that threshold so far. Cruz might get there, but then he might not; even if he does, it’s a cinch that Kasich won’t. Rule 40 is a “temporary” rule and is supposed to be revisited by the Rules Committee, but Team Trump will obviously be campaigning hard to leave it in place, especially if he’s the only candidate with a delegate majority in eight states at the time. My assumption (which I wrote about at greater length here) is that Rule 40 would apply predictably only on the first ballot at the convention, when all delegates are bound. If Trump is the only candidate who met the eight-state requirement going into the convention, he’d be the only name on the first ballot — but he’d still need a majority of delegates to vote for him in order to clinch. If he failed to get a majority on that vote, hundreds of delegates in various states would become unbound on the second ballot. At that point, if Cruz can persuade a majority of eight different state delegations to pledge their support to him, he’d satisfy Rule 40 and join Trump as a candidate on the second ballot.

According to this Politico piece published yesterday, though, things might not work out that way in practice. The Trump and Cruz campaigns apparently want Rule 40 to bar Kasich from being considered for the nomination entirely:

Advisers to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz say there’s no way they’ll allow John Kasich to even compete at a contested national convention — let alone prevail…

Their confidence is rooted in the fact that Trump and Cruz are nearly certain to control the lion’s share of the 2,472 delegates participating in the July convention. Together, they’ve earned more than 1,000 delegate slots to Kasich’s 136. And those delegates will ultimately approve the rules that govern a contested convention…

To be sure, the convention rules will get a thorough review and revision when delegates convene in Cleveland, raising the possibility that the threshold to participate could be lowered, making room for Kasich. But with Trump and Cruz delegates at the helm, it’s unlikely they’ll adjust it to help a rival.

It may be that no single candidate will control a majority of delegates at the start of the convention but Trump and Cruz combined obviously will, and the delegates get to approve the rules. All it would take to render Kasich ineligible is a tweak to Rule 40 specifying that no candidate shall be placed in nomination on any ballot unless he’s won a majority of delegates in eight states as of the opening of the convention. Obviously that would also bar dark-horse candidates like Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan from being considered if the convention deadlocks; the delegates would be forced to choose between Trump and Cruz. The tricky part for Cruz in insisting on a rule change like that is that it might antagonize Kasich into dropping out and pledging his support to Trump in exchange for the vice presidency. If he has no reason to keep going because he’s ineligible at the convention, he might as well make a deal with the frontrunner. That would end Cruz’s chances instantly. It also gives him some leverage, though: If Team Trump pushes to boot Kasich from the convention, Cruz could make a deal with Kasich vowing to oppose Trump and to keep Kasich eligible in exchange for Kasich pledging to support him on the floor if he doesn’t reach a certain pre-agreed threshold of delegates on the second ballot. Would Kasich agree to that? Or is the die already cast and we’re destined for a Trump/Kasich ticket no matter what?

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