Despite Marco Rubio’s assertion that you don’t win the nomination by how many states you win, the candidates are going to be racking up points wherever they can. Unfortunately for pretty much everyone but The Donald, those points have been slowly stacking up in Trump’s column through the first four contests. While it’s still early, there are some nearly panic level entreaties making their way around conservative circles these days, sending out the call for some way – any way – to stop Trump before he just walks away with the whole shooting match. Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg insists that Trump Must Be Stopped, and suggests a line of attack.
A myth has evolved that negative ads don’t work against Trump, but in the two states where they were tried at least to some extent — Iowa and South Carolina — they did seem to have some results. We’re not talking about someone with 70 percent of the vote and an insurmountable lead. Trump should be easy to take on, and given how much money should be available, not every hit needs to be effective for an overall campaign to succeed.
Dan Drezner suggested on Tuesday, perhaps a little tongue in cheek, that Republican party actors may have chosen to leave Trump alone because they believed political scientists who said that such a candidate could never win a party’s presidential nomination. Of course, a careful read of political scientists who believe that party actors choose their nominees — myself very much included — would tell those Republicans that party actors usually win because they care passionately about party politics and fight hard to retain their influence over party proceedings.
It’s an interesting take and worth a look, but there are other plans afoot in case things go all the way to Cleveland. There has already been more than a little speculation about the possibility of an open convention. Under current party rules, if Donald Trump goes into Cleveland with the most delegates, but not enough to win the nomination outright, it’s conceivable that a back room deal could be struck to hand the nomination to somebody else. As I’ve opined here before, that will very likely shatter the Republican Party as we know it for a decade or a generation, but it’s theoretically possible.
But what if Trump arrives with 1,237 delegates or more who are bound to him? Is the party over for the Anybody But Trump (ABT) contingent? I only bring this up because I get all sorts of interesting theories sent to me. One of the more recent ones was a chain discussion of the possibility of a revolt in Cleveland. The thinking goes along these lines: If the delegate count is close, but Trump is over the required limit, the outcome could be changed if a sufficient number of delegates could be persuaded to follow their conscience “for the good of the party and America” and either change their vote or stand mute, refusing to cast their votes for the business mogul. This theory leads to a situation similar to an open convention and we proceed to the next round.
That’s certainly some creative thinking, but it comes with one minor impediment: It won’t work. The reason is the pesky RNC rules which govern the big show. If you look at rule 16 (a) (2) you’ll find the following nugget.
(2) The Secretary of the Convention shall faithfully announce and record each delegate’s vote in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under these rules, state law or state party rule. If any delegate bound by these rules, state party rule or state law to vote for a residential candidate at the national convention demonstrates support under Rule 40 for any person other than the candidate to whom he or she is bound, such support shall not be recognized. Except as provided for by state law or state party rule, no presidential candidate shall have the power to remove a delegate.
I checked with someone far more experienced in these rules and found that standing mute won’t work either. On the first round, the votes of the bound delegates are largely cosmetic when they are read off. If someone fails to vote as bound, the votes will be recorded in the proper order anyway. So if the ABT army wants to “stop Trump” they’re going to have to do it the old fashion way.
Get more voters behind another candidate and do so quickly.