Cruz himself said this week that the party is risking a “manifest revolt” at the convention if someone besides the top finisher in delegates receives the nomination, but it’s clear in context that he’s thinking of a scenario where an establishment hero like Romney or Rubio is tapped while populist candidates are passed over. His point is simply that party leaders shouldn’t rig the outcome to favor one of their own. Unless I missed it, he’s never suggested it would be inappropriate per se to deny the candidate who finishes with the most delegates.
But some of his fans have. John McCormack is mystified by this bit from Glenn Beck. So am I.
Beck then argued that the Republican party should roll over and make Trump the nominee even if Trump fails to win a majority of delegates required to win the nomination.
“If [Trump] gets close enough and the GOP tries to play games, I won’t vote for Donald Trump ever, but I will stand with his right, because the people have spoken,” [Glenn] Beck said.
“You just said you don’t believe it’s fair to deny Donald Trump the nomination if he has the lead going in” to the convention, George Stephanopoulous said a little later in the interview. “Of course not,” Beck replied.
Beck argued that “the options of the party playing politics to break us apart at the convention” would lead the party “to civil war on the floor and quite honestly it could lead to civil war in the country.”
In this same interview Beck compared Trump to Hitler circa 1929. We owe it to Hitler not to block his path to the nomination, even when he’s failed to satisfy the rule requiring a majority of delegates to win? What?
Erick Erickson, another Cruz supporter, made a similar point today:
I am very much opposed to Donald Trump and will vote third party if Donald Trump is the GOP nominee, but if he heads to the convention with the most delegates and the GOP does not make him the nominee, I’d call foul on them as well…
Trump, though I do not like him, has brought swarms of people into the GOP. Putting out a “No Trump voters allowed” sign is Jim Crowing the GOP — a convention equivalent to segregated water fountains and delegates.
The way to beat Trump is to beat him in the primaries and caucuses, not steal from him the nomination when he gets the most votes. Playing cute by saying he needed 1,234 and came up short does not work in the real world when he has the most delegates.
Say what now?
You won’t be surprised to hear that Trump agrees that the top finisher in delegates before the convention should be the nominee. That’s never been the rule, though. It would have been the simplest thing for the GOP’s Rules Committee to replace the requirement that the nominee have a majority of delegates with one awarding the nomination to whoever has a plurality, which would eliminate the chance of a messy floor fight after the first ballot at the convention. But they didn’t, and as far as I know no one even asked them to. Now here’s what’s important for Cruz fans to understand: As McCormack notes, it’s very unlikely that Ted Cruz will win a clear majority of delegates before the convention. It’s possible that he’ll emerge with a plurality — go look again at how well he does head-to-head with Trump in that WaPo poll this morning, suggesting strength in a two-man race — but he’s behind Trump right now and will be much further behind if Trump wins Ohio and Florida next week. Any Cruz fan who’s calling for the top finisher in delegates to receive the nomination is almost certainly arguing against interest. Why raise the bar for legitimacy for your own guy right as he’s starting to break from the rest of the non-Trump pack?
In fact, if you imagine a few different possible delegate scenarios at the convention, you can see why it wouldn’t necessarily be illegitimate to pass Trump over even if he’s the top finisher in delegates. Let’s take these three. (The first two are recycled from a post this weekend.) The latter two here almost certainly require Rubio to win Florida.
Scenario one: Trump has 48 percent of the delegates, Cruz has 38 percent, and several candidates who quit the race much earlier have 14 percent.
Scenario two: Trump has 40 percent, Cruz has 32 percent, and Marco Rubio has 28 percent.
Scenario three: Trump has 37 percent, Cruz has 35 percent, Rubio has 17 percent, and John Kasich has 11 percent.
Passing over Trump in the first scenario really would feel like a rip-off. Granted, rules are rules and he failed to achieve a majority, but he’s within two points of the threshold and he’s 10 points better than Cruz. The closer Trump is to 50 and the bigger his lead over the second-place finisher, the more compelling the argument is that he should be the nominee. In the second scenario, then, the case for him is weaker: He’s still comfortably ahead of Cruz but his lead is a bit smaller and he’s not within striking distance of the nomination. Fully 60 percent of the party has split in this case between the two conservative candidates, Cruz and Rubio. To my mind, scenario two would make Cruz plausible as a compromise nominee, avoiding a Trump nomination that would anger the party’s right-wing while also avoiding a Rubio nomination that would anger populists. The party might not hold together but nominating Cruz is your best shot at unifying everyone.
In the third scenario, the case for nominating Trump is weak. He’s barely ahead of Cruz and the rest of the party is deeply fractured among three candidates. It may well be that to produce this scenario would require Cruz to win most of the primaries remaining on the schedule, a streak which would feed perceptions that the party has trended towards rejecting Trump. To nominate him anyway per Beck’s and Erickson’s wishes would make Trump fans happy but would antagonize so many anti-Trumpers that Trump might be crippled in the general election right out of the box. You’ve got 63 percent of the party favoring a non-Trump candidate here. If you’re destined to alienate someone, why wouldn’t you rather alienate Trump’s 37 percent than some sizable chunk of that 63?
And here’s another thing I don’t understand. Why would a solid #NeverTrumper, which includes Beck and Erickson, insist upon the GOP “playing fair” by nominating Trump if the point of the #NeverTrump movement is to try to sink Trump in the general election? If Trump quit the primaries today and declared himself an independent candidate, presumably the #NeverTrump crowd would rejoice that the GOP was free of him even though it would guarantee Republican defeat in November as Trump’s fans walked away from the party with him. The argument, I guess, is that it’s worth letting Trump have the nomination and lose to Hillary as the duly recognized GOP nominee because at least that’ll show his voters that the party is fair and that they should stick with it even after Trump has passed from the scene. You’re running two big risks with that, though. One: If Beck is right, you’re handing a dangerous authoritarian a much more viable path to the presidency, as a major-party nominee, than he would have as an independent after having been robbed of the GOP nomination. And two: Even if Trump loses to Hillary, you risk having the GOP rebranded as, in Philip Klein’s words, the party of “open-ended government entitlements, socialized medicine, partial birth abortion, gun control, private property seizures, trade protectionism, authoritarianism, vulgarity, mindless policy pronouncements, celebrity worship, and white male resentment.” You could appease pro-Trump populists to some degree by nominating Cruz and letting him rant at the convention about the “Washington cartel.” Given the risks, how is that not preferable to handing Trump the nomination, even when there’s no compelling case for it a la scenario three, and simply hoping for the best?
Here’s Rush Limbaugh warning on Sunday about chaos if Trump makes it to Cleveland in the lead and doesn’t get the nomination. Skip to 8:20 for the key bit.