I missed this yesterday but it’s worth blogging now, with the Rules Committee set for war 24 hours from now. You can dismiss this if you like on account of the fact that Randy Evans, the source, is pro-Trump and has been conducting whip counts on the candidate’s behalf. That is, he has a motive to discourage #NeverTrumpers with reports that their movement is crumbling. Evans was also the source, though, for the WSJ piece last week claiming that Trump has only 890 delegates who are truly devoted to him, well short of the 1,237 he needs. If he was in the business of pushing disinformation, presumably he’d say the number is more like 1,400. So maybe he’s being honest.
Cruz has said he finds it “curious” that some would see his willingness to speak at the convention as any kind of endorsement of Trump. I’ve already addressed that argument, but Cruz doesn’t need to convince me. He needs to convince these guys, who seemingly feel the same way I do:
RNC Whip Randy Evans said today Never-Trump contingent declined from nearly 680 to 570 since Cruz announced he's speaking @ convention.
— Alexandra Jaffe (@ajjaffe) July 12, 2016
As noted last night, Evans’s latest whip count found that no fewer than 1,700 delegates are committed to Trump. But that’s not because there’s been a tidal shift towards him. On the contrary, Evans claims there are still just 890 or so delegates firmly in his corner. The reason he’s pegging Trump’s overall support at 1,700 is because there are 900 or so undecided delegates who are party loyalists and who’ll presumably do whatever the RNC tells them to do.
And the RNC is in the tank for Trump:
Randy Evans, an RNC member from Georgia who has been keeping a careful tally of the nearly 2,500 delegates, said that although 1,457 are currently required by party rules to vote for Trump, the celebrity businessman could only count on 888 delegates loyal to him personally in a rules battle. But Evans said Trump can also rely on 903 delegates who will do whatever Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus wants, with the remaining 800 supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and other former candidates.
“The combination of Reince Priebus delegates and Trump delegates will give him well over two-thirds,” Evans said.
And that’s the main problem Delegates Unbound and the allied Free the Delegates groups confront: They must overcome not only the Trump campaign ― which appears to be spending more organizational effort holding onto the nomination than fighting Democrat Hillary Clinton ― but the RNC itself.
So there you go. If everything goes as expected this week and the “Dump Trump” movement collapses, you’ll know whom to blame if you’re unhappy with that outcome. Blame the guy who’s been insulting you. And I don’t mean Trump.
As for tomorrow’s Rules Committee showdown, Kendal Unruh, the head of the “Dump Trump” contingent, continues to claim that she has 28 votes to send a “minority report” to the floor and force a vote on whether delegates should be able to vote their consciences. Trump’s whip operation claims, however, that there are only 15-20 votes right now. Unruh’s probably bluffing — unless Mike Lee, the most prominent member of the Committee, decides to throw down the gauntlet and join the #NeverTrumpers, in which case anything can happen. Given that his “best friend” Cruz has decided to attend Trump’s coronation, I’m guessing Lee won’t make a fuss. To prepare for tomorrow, read Gabe Malor’s rundown of the many longshot ways that the delegates could block Trump if they were so inclined. If Unruh fails to force a vote on a “conscience” rule by mustering 28 votes on the Committee, the delegates on the floor would still hypothetically be able to unbind themselves by refusing to adopt any rules passed by the Committee. They could also organize mass abstentions designed to hold Trump under 1,237 votes on the first ballot; if Evans is right that there are only 890 committed to him, those who are bound by the rules to support Trump but don’t want him as nominee could simply skip the first ballot, then come back for the second where delegates are unbound. But all of that assumes a lot of coordination and a lot of will. If Unruh can’t find a few dozen votes on the Rules Committee to block Trump, how are #NeverTrumpers going to find 1,237 to crown someone else as nominee?
Exit question from a “Dump Trump” delegate: Why is Trump afraid of a “conscience” rule? If he’s got as much support as he claims among the delegates, they’ll vote for him even if they’re unbound.