If you’re a Trump fan who’s worried about a delegate revolt, this … won’t reassure you.
Interesting. @GOP just named Romney ally Enid Greene Mickelsen to run convention rules committee.
— (((Cameron Joseph))) (@cam_joseph) June 17, 2016
Read this post for a reminder that any serious effort to dump Trump in Cleveland will (probably) require the complicity of the Rules Committee. They set the rules for the nomination process. If those rules are going to be changed to allow delegates to vote their conscience instead of following the outcome of their state primary or caucus, Mickelsen will preside over the effort. “We are going to make this a fair and deliberative process,” she promised Politico. “Nothing’s going to come out of this that’s been done by parliamentary trickery.”
[E]xisting nomination rules — including those that bind delegates to vote on the first ballot according to the results of their state primaries and caucuses, as well as those governing nominating a candidate not already in the race — can all be changed, said Utah Republican National Committeewoman Enid Mickelsen.
Mickelsen, a vice chairwoman of the national Republican Party committee responsible for putting on the convention, said it’s the delegates, not the party or the candidates, who control the nominating process.
You’ve got the new Rules Committee chair explicitly imagining scenarios in which delegates are freed to vote for someone other than the candidate who won their state primary. If nothing else, that proves Mickelsen’s willing to buck the will of the voters in certain circumstances. If you’re an anti-Trumper, that’s the sort of mindset you want to see in the new rules chief.
But wait. That wasn’t all Mickelsen said in the March story:
[I]f there’s not a clear winner in advance of the convention, “there are a lot of ifs,” she said. While she declined to comment on specific candidates, Mickelsen said what Romney “was saying was, ‘Let’s make it so no one gets a majority.'”
Choosing a candidate other than the front-runner in that situation is “not that you’re denying someone” a nomination or the will of the voters, she said. “If you don’t get a majority, you have to allow delegate flexibility.”
Mickelsen was addressing Ted Cruz’s hoped-for scenario, in which Cruz won a bunch of primaries after Wisconsin and denied Trump the 1,237 delegates he needed to clinch the nomination. You’re not denying the will of the majority, Mickelsen noted, if no candidate actually won a majority of delegates. This is not, needless to say, the situation in which we find ourselves now. Trump won a majority and then some; Cruz and Kasich conceded the race to him by dropping out after Indiana. If Mickelsen’s serious in suggesting that it’s okay to let the delegates choose the nominee if (and only if?) there was no clear signal from voters, well, then, Trump has nothing to worry about. There was a clear signal from voters.
The only wiggle room she could try to claim on that is by looking at the popular vote instead of the delegate totals to try to glean the will of the Republican majority. Jay Cost argues in a new piece that it’s kinda sorta democratically legitimate to deny Trump the nomination because he won only a plurality, not a majority, of the primary popular vote. Right, but #NeverTrumpers were arguing just two months ago, when it looked like Trump would fall short of 1,237, that the popular vote doesn’t matter. The party has always used delegates to decide the nomination. If it wanted voters to directly choose the nominee, it would do away with delegates entirely; and if it wanted delegates to be free to vote their consciences, it would do away with primaries. The system we have empowers voters to award delegates based on preset rules. Trump won a majority according to those rules. I understand the arguments for stripping him and going with a different nominee this fall, but let’s at least not pretend that that wouldn’t be a coup. That’s the question for Mickelsen. Is she willing to stage a coup or does she believe that the voters have tied her hands.
Here’s a potentially freaky situation at the convention that occurs to me: What if the dump-Trumpers manage to convince a majority of the Rules Committee to unbind the delegates, and then the delegates … nominate Trump anyway, possibly over the course of multiple ballots? There’s a nonzero chance that the outcome of this rolling clusterfark is a failed coup in Cleveland that ignites a million “GOP civil war” newspaper stories but doesn’t actually succeed in replacing Trump as nominee. Imagine revving up for the general election with a candidate newly crippled by coverage of a near no-confidence vote by his own party at his own convention. If you’re going to try to take Trump down, you’d better be sure ahead of time that the effort will succeed. This is already a fiasco, but the fiasco can get much bigger. Dare I say: Yuge?
Update: Maybe I spoke too soon about Mickelsen deferring to the will of the people. How do Trumpers feel about this?
Enid Mickelsen just named chair of GOP convention rules panel. Here's what she told Salt Lake Tribune two weeks ago. pic.twitter.com/1MnVkdLvyl
— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) June 17, 2016
Update: Here’s one way to vote your conscience against Trump. But not a very smart way if you’re eager to see him replaced as nominee.
— Reid Wilson (@PoliticsReid) June 17, 2016
If you resign in disgust, your seat in Cleveland might be taken by a pro-Trump delegate. Trump’s marginally more likely to be the nominee now that these two have bowed out than he was before.