Ironic, although not surprising, that Trump’s support within the Rules Committee appears to be firming up just as he’s lost a few points of support among Republican voters generally. If you’re pro-Trump, that’s evidence that his supposedly disastrous month in June wasn’t anything like a disaster after all. If you’re anti-Trump, it’s evidence that the Republican establishment is as tone-deaf as ever — except this time it’s tone-deafness that’s benefiting populists, not hindering them.
Remember, there are two magic numbers on the Rules Committee. You need 57 members of the 112-member group, a clear majority, to pass a rule unbinding the delegates and freeing them to vote their consciences on the nomination. If you can’t get that, 28 members of the Committee can force a “minority report” on a new “conscience” rule to be sent to the floor of the convention for a vote of all 2400+ delegates. What Politico’s telling you here is that there’s almost zero chance of passing a new rule through the Committee via a 57-member majority — at least 16 pro-Trump members would need to switch sides — and it’s doubtful whether there are even 28 members willing to push a “minority report.”
In fact, the total number of publicly committed #NeverTrumpers on the Committee is … six.
Through dozens of interviews and a review of public statements, however, POLITICO has determined that at least 72 members of the panel intend to smooth Trump’s path to the nomination — not hinder it.
Just six members say they’ll work against Trump, and of those six, two said they’d bail on the effort if they don’t find sufficient support. “If this has a shot, and if this continues to develop … I will support the freeing of the delegates,” said one of the committee members…
Added Nevada Rules Committee delegate Jordan Ross, “Whatever objections, be they petty or vindictive, that might possibly erase the concept of Republican voters to choose their nominee, I have yet to hear one that justifies stealing the votes of over 10 million voters.”…
One of the last vestiges of hope for anti-Trump delegates is that there are dozens of secret supporters in their midst who won’t acknowledge their intentions until the last moment. Pressure to support Trump is enormous, they note, and hinting at rejecting him may lead to an onslaught of criticism, vitriol and even threats that other Trump detractors have faced when they publicly buck him.
The six #NeverTrumpers need 22 of the remaining 34 undecideds to vote with them to issue a minority report. Those 34 will be under heavy pressure not only from Team Trump but from the RNC not to endorse a quixotic measure that has almost no chance of passing on the floor, especially with anti-Trumpers lacking a formidable organization to whip votes. All a minority report would achieve would be to embarrass the inevitable nominee at what’s supposed to be the supreme moment of party unity in Cleveland. You think Reince can squeeze 13 of those undecideds to back Trump and snuff the last serious hope of the opposition? I think he can. And if it’s true that there are various “shy anti-Trumpers” within the Committee and among the delegates, people who secretly oppose Trump but aren’t willing to make their feelings plain for fear of being intimidated by the mobbier aspects of Trump’s base, what makes you think they’ll suddenly find their courage at the convention?
Although let’s pause here a moment to reflect that we’ve reached a point with the Republican Party where physical threats against opponents from the nominee’s base, with wink-wink support from some of his own top cronies, are now a widely understood bit of political leverage for him. (Trump himself famously predicted riots if he was denied the nomination, and that was back when Cruz still had a perfectly legitimate path to defeating him on the second ballot.) That’s a healthy development that certainly merits encouragement by crowning him as party leader in Cleveland.
If the minority report doesn’t happen, will there be any sign of opposition to Trump allowed inside the convention hall in Cleveland? The logic that the convention is a pageant for the nominee is compelling. The point of the proceedings is to boost the party’s chances of winning in November; anything that undermines that by signaling division and a lack of confidence in the nominee is counterproductive. They don’t allow anti-Thanksgiving floats at the Macy’s parade, right? On the other hand, the convention in its most basic sense is a gathering of the party via its chosen delegates. More Republicans voted for candidates not named Trump in the primaries than voted for him. A poll taken this week by none other than Fox News found that 51 percent of Republicans would rather have someone else at nominee. And Trump isn’t merely (comparatively) unpopular within his own party; as many of his fans will excitedly tell you, he represents a break ideologically from movement conservative orthodoxy and towards nationalism. Many Republican pols will skip the convention altogether this year so as not to be linked to Trump and his ideology. Does that opposition deserve even token acknowledgment in Cleveland via, say, a doomed vote on a minority report about unbinding the delegates? Even Trump’s critics would concede, I think, that it’d be bizarre to give his critics speaking time onstage to attack him, but there are ways to placate dissenters that don’t involve gestures as prominent as that. Is the RNC prepared to make any?