Here’s his presser, as promised this morning. The line you’ll hear most often on the news tonight is “I do not want, nor will I accept, the nomination for our party,” but that’s not the most interesting line. The most interesting line is what follows, where he calls on the delegates to pass a rule that would limit the universe of possible nominees to candidates who ran for president this year.
That sounds restrictive, especially since it comes in the context of Ryan ruling himself out, but is it? Seventeen different candidates ran! I suggested a rule change this morning that would limit the universe of nominees to anyone who’s satisfied Rule 40, i.e. who’s won a majority of delegates in eight states, before the first ballot. That would eliminate everyone except Trump and Cruz and would force the delegates to choose between them. Ryan’s rule is much broader than that. All declared candidates — including establishment favorite Marco Rubio and his pal Scott Walker — would be in the mix. The one advantage Ryan’s rule has over mine is that there is at least a chance, however small, that neither Trump nor Cruz will be able to get to 1,237 even on multiple ballots if delegates are evenly split and there’s some stubborn small minority that refuses to vote for either. (Party leaders might make up only a small percentage of delegates overall but they may be able to form that type of kingmaker minority.) Do you want to keep them locked in the room like a sequestered jury faced with a binary choice between Trump or Cruz, or do you want to let them start considering dark-horse nominees past a certain point? You could, I suppose, write a rule that limits the choices to Trump and Cruz for, say, the first four ballots and then permits outside entrants on the fifth.
Even so, hard to imagine anyone but Trump or Cruz winning. Even the most theoretically “electable” of the dark-horse candidates under Ryan’s proposed rule, namely Rubio, would face daunting math. Trump’s delegates aren’t going to vote for him; he’s anathema to them on immigration. Cruz’s delegates will resist bitterly on the theory that Rubio, although certainly more conservative than Trump and preferable to him as nominee, was outworked and outpolled by Cruz. Why should a failed candidate reap the benefits of what their guy worked so hard to achieve? The only way you see Rubio in the mix, I think, is if Cruz blows up somehow between the end of the primaries and the start of the convention, leaving anti-Trump delegates desperate for a Plan B — although even that would be chaos. Can you imagine the reaction among Trumpers if Trump’s lone remaining rival for the nomination melted down for whatever reason and then he still lost the nomination when delegates revolted and handed it to a pro-amnesty guy whom he beat in state after state? It’d be epic. It’d be catastrophic. It’d be … a total traffic goldmine. We may need to add an extra server before July.