Jeff Flake: Maybe this judge kerfuffle will inspire a convention challenge to Trump

A Twitter pal half-joked last night that given how much campaign debt Trump’s taken on and how grim his prospects are for further spending before the convention, the GOP’s best play now is to offer him $100 million to drop out and go away. Buy him out! If he’s as cash-poor as Mark Cuban thinks, he might even accept.

Failing that, I guess there’s this. Although, no, not really. This is never going to happen. C’mon.

A Republican senator says Donald Trump’s criticism of a U.S.-born federal judge of Mexican heritage could fuel a convention challenge of the presumptive GOP nominee.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said the Republicans cannot win in November with Trump as the party’s standard-bearer.

“Let’s face it: meet the old Trump, just like the new Trump,” Flake, who has long opposed the billionaire’s candidacy, told reporters. “We’ve got what we’ve got. That’s not somebody who can win the White House.”

“Where there’s no talk of a convention challenge or anything else, this might spur it,” Flake said of Trump’s comments on Judge Gonzalo Curiel.

Who’s going to challenge Trump at the convention? Cruz? Romney? What hope would either of them have against Clinton once 20-30 percent of the party walked away in outrage that Trump was ousted after having won the nomination fair and square? Keeping the GOP together this fall would have been hard enough had Cruz hung in there, held Trump under 1,237 delegates, and then won on the second ballot thanks to his greater support among party delegates. Waltzing into Cleveland and having the delegates change the rules at the last second after Trump has clinched in order to allow a dark horse to seize the crown would be out-and-out Republican civil war. The only redeeming thing about it would be watching all of the Trump fans who spend their time these days chanting “Never Hillary” decide that, come to think of it, staying home or voting third-party is better than voting for Ted Cruz as nominee after all.

I’ll grant Flake this much, though: I think the reaction among anti-Trumpers to the mess with the “Mexican” judge would have been different had it happened after the convention. Once he’s officially the nominee and we’re three months out from election day, we’re stuck with a Trump/Clinton election. You can scream all you want about “textbook racist” rhetoric like Paul Ryan did this morning. Trump’s not going anywhere. If that means a landslide defeat against Clinton then that’s what it means — and because his critics on the right would know that, their incentive to attack would be smaller. Because it happened now, though, when we’re still six weeks away from the convention, there’s at least a theoretical chance that Flake is right that this train can be derailed before it wrecks. The more prominent Republicans there are criticizing Trump for his attacks on Curiel, the more political cover GOP delegates have next month to do something … unexpected. Hardcore #NeverTrumpers like Cruz fan Steve Deace are already openly encouraging the delegates to mutiny and spare the party, and the country, any more of an ordeal this fall:

Delegates to the Republican Nation Convention next month in Cleveland should follow in the footsteps of that tradition according to the new book “Unbound: The Conscience of a Republican Delegate.” Co-authored by Curly Haugland, a 17-year veteran member of the RNC, who also currently sits on the powerful rules committee for the convention, the book uses the RNC’s own actual rules to make its case all GOP delegates are not bound to vote for Donald Trump (or anyone else as the nominee) who violates their conscience.

Haugland’s book says these RNC rules are in place to “preserve and protect” each delegate’s right to “a full and unfettered right to vote as he wished on matters ranging from approval of rules, credential challenges, whether to uphold or overturn rulings of the chair, and perhaps most importantly, on the nomination of the Republican Party’s candidate for president and vice president of the United States.”…

And lest anyone think this sounds like Obama picking and choosing which laws he’ll uphold, these RNC rules are in place to protect the system from just such a leader. See, this is how a republican form of government works. The popular vote puts a check-and-balance on the political class, but elected representatives (in this case delegates) put a check-and-balance on the unbridled passions of a wayward electorate. It’s why the Founding Fathers gave us mechanisms such as juries and the Electoral College in the first place.

The Rules Committee could set any rules they like, I assume, including summarily unbinding all delegates to vote their conscience — but as I say, that’s a recipe for huge numbers of Republican voters to boycott the general election, guaranteeing defeat. Even if you’re prepared to pay that price in the name of ensuring that Trump doesn’t become president, think carefully about how long the grudge among Trumpists might last upon watching His Majesty deposed in Cleveland. Many who walk away this fall won’t come back (and remember, most Trump fans are registered Republicans who do traditionally vote in November). Even those who do suck it up and vote GOP will ask, understandably, why they should ever bother voting in a primary again if the results can simply be overruled by a group of delegates, more than a few of whom are elite operatives. To nuke Trump, you have to nuke the party and then be prepared for the consequences that flow from that. Are you? Here’s another #NeverTrumper, Amanda Carpenter, sounding pretty prepared.