“I think if it’s an open convention, it’s very likely it would be someone who’s not currently running,” Walker told reporters Thursday. “I mean, who knows. The one thing I qualify — it’s like the qualifications you see on those ads you see for car dealerships. I think any of us who comment on this election have to qualify that almost every prediction’s been off, so it’s hard to predict anything.”
The governor, who ended his own presidential campaign in September, has yet to endorse a candidate. He plans to decide whether to endorse within the next few days, he said.
He said yesterday at a press conference that his views align better with two of the three remaining Republicans running than they do with the other (hint) and then he said in a radio interview that Kasich has no path to the nomination (hint hint), so yeah, he’s going to endorse Cruz — not right now but next week, when the April 5th primary is closer, for “maximum impact.” Although it sounds like that “endorsement” might be more Romney-esque than heartfelt. Remember, Romney said before Utah voted that he’d be casting a vote for Cruz, not because he wanted to see Cruz as the nominee but because that was the only way to assure a brokered convention. If Walker’s planning to endorse Cruz in the expectation that someone else will be chosen in Cleveland, isn’t he essentially saying the same thing?
And is he right that there’s a chance that someone not currently in the race will be tapped as nominee? John Podhoretz thinks so:
Look, fellas: If Trump doesn’t get enough delegates to win, why would a GOP let entirely loose from primary and caucus results and able to choose anyone as its nominee turn to two candidates who received even fewer delegates than Trump did?
Would this panicked GOP look at Potential Nominee Cruz and foresee a shift in its fortunes? Why would it? Cruz has yet to demonstrate he has a national constituency. Alas for him, the movement he wanted to lead — conservative white people who, according to a delusional theory unsupported by evidence, didn’t turn up to vote for Mitt Romney in 2012 by the millions and cost the GOP the election — has a candidate: His name is Trump…
Why would the GOP think its chances of prevailing in November would be notably enhanced by turning to either of these guys rather than to, say, Paul Ryan (who at least was the vice presidential nominee on a ticket that got 61 million votes) or even Mitt Romney (who was at the top of the ticket that got 61 million votes)?
The argument for choosing a non-candidate is simple: After a bitter primary and war at the convention, the GOP would need a clean slate headed into the fall. Trump fans won’t turn out for Cruz as nominee because they’d regard him as having stolen the nomination. Cruz fans won’t turn out for Trump because they think he’s a boorish liberal who’s destroying the conservative movement. The only way to take the edge off of those hard feelings is to placate each side by not letting the other side’s champion win. The trick would be finding a non-candidate who’s vaguely acceptable to both sides in order to maximize turnout against Hillary this fall, and I don’t think that person exists. “[T]he Republican Party consists of interest groups that so broadly dislike each other that they share little common ground,” wrote Joel Kotkin a few days ago, and he’s right. Who’s the magical figure that’s going to appeal to establishmentarians, conservatives, and nationalists well enough to make all three groups vote Republican in November? I can’t think of anyone. So what might happen, as Podhoretz says, is the delegates will opt for someone like Ryan who’s broadly acceptable to traditional Republican voters and personally likable enough that he’d attract some swing voters — and then they’ll just hope for the best. Maybe a few Trump fans here and there would grudgingly vote GOP so long as it’s not Ted Cruz who’s getting the benefit of their vote. Maybe a few conservative populists, irritated at Ryan for his various ideological heresies over the years, would decide to suck it up and try to beat Hillary. Maybe Hillary would get indicted or suffer some other scandal. There’s still a 90 percent chance that she wins, but the 10 percent odds you get with someone like Ryan might be better than the five percent you get with Cruz or Trump. That would be the logic of drafting someone into the race.
Just explain to me how it could work. Trump and Cruz are already working hard behind the scenes to get delegates favorably disposed to them elected in state conventions. They’ll be wooing unbound delegates at the convention with promises of lord knows what. Their delegates may even succeed in changing the rules of the convention before it begins to bar anyone who hasn’t been a candidate this year from being offered as nominee. (One of Kasich’s big worries is that Trump and Cruz will amplify Rule 40 to kick him off the ballot because he hasn’t won a majority of delegates in eight states.) Trump and Cruz hold the cards here, not the RNC; if they’re willing to coordinate to their mutual benefit, they can probably force a rule change that would make the delegates in Cleveland choose between them as nominee. Cruz in particular would have a strong incentive to push that rule since he’s expected to surge on the second ballot if Trump doesn’t clinch the nomination outright on the first. The last thing Cruz wants to worry about as delegates start defecting to him is having someone like Romney or Ryan catch on on the convention floor as a consensus choice. Cruz, after all, is under no illusions that many of his new “supporters” dislike him and have swung around to him purely in opposition to Trump. As one GOP operative put it to Politico:
“People think we’re not going to win in November anymore. All the candidates that had a shot at winning don’t appear to have a shot at winning the nomination. Everyone is resigned to that,” said a high-ranking GOP operative about the thinking among Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio alums as well as Republican party officials and big-money donors.
“People think we lose with Cruz, but we don’t lose everything,” said the operative, who opposes Trump and asked to speak anonymously. “He’s still a real Republican. We don’t lose the House and Senate with Cruz. We don’t lose our soul as a party and we can recover in four years and I’m not sure people think we can recover from Donald Trump.”
Outside of “very conservative” voters, all Cruz is is a more dignified way to lose to Hillary, one that would at least prevent a nationalist takeover of the GOP. That being so, why should Cruz spend the next four months laboring to make sure that Trump doesn’t win only to see someone else waltz onto the floor in Cleveland and start picking up support from anti-Trump establishmentarians?
Frankly, I wonder if Trump might surprise everyone by resisting any attempt by Cruz to limit the choices on the convention floor to the two of them. What incentive does Trump have to do that? If he fails to win on the first ballot, it’s a cinch that huge chunks of his delegates will bolt towards Cruz once they’re unbound. If you force them to make a straight-up choice between the two of them, there’s every reason to think Cruz would eventually win as conservatives and establishmentarians line up behind him. If I were Trump, foreseeing that outcome, I might leave the delegates with the option of drafting a white knight like Ryan purely as a means of screwing Cruz. Trump might not be able to beat him in a beauty contest among delegates, but Ryan almost certainly would. If Trump’s going down, he might very well take “Lyin’ Ted” with him. Why wouldn’t he?