RNC chair Reince Priebus is trying to throw water on the on again, off again claims by Donald Trump he’ll run third party if he doesn’t win the Republican nomination. Priebus told multiple Sunday talk shows about how important that pledge Trump and the other GOP candidates signed last year was. Via The Washington Times:
Mr. Priebus said the pledges signed by primary candidates was not “some sort of magical paper,” but an agreement. In exchange for their pledge, he said, candidates received RNC voter data and other resources worth as much as $100 million.
Would he enforce the agreement with a lawsuit, asked host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I’m not going to get into every detail of the agreement. But it’s a data exchange agreement with the RNC and among the things that they can use at the RNC,” Mr. Priebus said.
“One of the things that we say is, ‘Look, we’ll give you these things. But you have to agree that you’re going to support the party and the eventual nominee.’ They’ve all agreed to that. And we’ll see what happens,” Mr. Priebus said.
Priebus also told ABC there’d be “consequences” if someone broke the pledge, although he declined to go into what the consequences would be. Trump has been floating the idea of a third party run for months, just in case he somehow doesn’t end up on the November ballot with an “R” next to his name. A lot of it hinges on being “treated fairly,” which probably means Trump wants the nomination even if he doesn’t score enough delegates to seal it outright. I wrote over the weekend how that would require a compromise of some kind happening at the convention, or right before, so a brokered convention doesn’t stretch on and on.
But Priebus did more than suggest Trump’s third party bid was all talk. He also tried to calm fears by Trump supporters that the GOP would steal the nomination from Trump through moves at the convention. Priebus did still note all bets are pretty much off if a contested convention happens, but dismissed the idea of a new candidate rising at the convention as a whole (The Washington Times).
“We will know where everyone stands on delegates on June 8 after the June 7 primaries,” said Mr. Priebus. “There will be no mystery over who has the majority, or if someone doesn’t whether it’s going to be an open convention.”
He rebutted suggestions that the party may “steal” the nomination, saying the process would be “clear, open and transparent…Nothing can get stolen from anyone,” Mr. Priebus said. “We have rules in place that if a candidate gets to 1,237 delegates, those delegates are bound and they will vote that way on the floor. And if they don’t vote that way on the floor, which they will, but if they don’t, the secretary will read the vote as if they were bound regardless.”
GOP strategist Karl Rove has promoted the idea of a “white knight” nominee, in which a Republican from outside the primary field such as House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin would be nominated at the convention, but Mr. Priebus discounted the possibility.
“If anything like that were to happen, which I think is highly, highly unlikely, I think our candidate is someone who’s running, okay?” Mr. Priebus said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
All that pretty much means is the GOP is looking at every possible scenario as to what could happen in Cleveland. It’s a pragmatic approach to take, but also one which runs the risk of blowing up in the party’s face. Say Trump doesn’t get the nomination and decides to run independent. The RNC would have to decide what kind of consequences Trump might face, whether it be by lawsuit or by making sure states enforce “sore loser” laws to keep him off the ballot as an Independent. That would keep an event like the 1912 Republican convention from happening again, where Teddy Roosevelt left the party to form the Bull Moose Party after not winning a contested convention from William Howard Taft. Trump could try to get around those laws by telling supporters to write him in, but that hasn’t ever been done on a national level. Maybe Trump is the candidate to attempt this, but that’s not going to be easy if the people who aren’t really paying attention to what’s going on forget to write his name in. There’s going to have to be a lot of education by Trump of his supporters for that to happen.
This just shows how crazy the 2016 election cycle has been. The Republican and Democratic races may end up being up for grabs all the way to the convention, and brokered conventions might happen on both sides. That would surely make things interesting for the future of politics if the anger shown by populists keeps being stoked by people like Trump and Bernie Sanders. It doesn’t mean anything is going to come out of said anger unless someone tries to create another third party to stir things up even more. That may not work because political anger tends to die off (see the Reform Party) before popping back up years later. Priebus is obviously trying to avoid seeing that anger spill over into the convention and November election. It just depends on voters.