Are they polling just for funsies, or is this “Dump Trump” thing among Republican leaders more serious than we thought?
Just got call from pollster testing Paul Ryan & John Kasich against Clinton. Hmmm. From Opinion Access Corp. cc: @PollsterPatrick
— Matt Katz (@mattkatz00) June 20, 2016
Earlier today the prediction site BetFair had Trump down to an 85 percent likelihood that he’ll be the GOP nominee, with Ryan second at three percent. That seems low to me — I’d put him at 95 percent, easy — but there is a lot of noise about a coup in the media lately. (Which helps to explain this morning’s bold stroke of cashiering Corey Lewandowski.) The “Dump Trump” contingent of Republican delegates now has its own website, they’re raising money to defend against legal challenges if they succeed at the convention, and they apparently had more than a thousand people on their last conference call. The group’s leader is convinced that if they can simply get the Rules Committee to pass a rule freeing delegates to vote their conscience, the vote for nominee will fall into place against Trump. I … don’t know why she thinks that.
There will be 2,472 Republican delegates going to Cleveland for the national convention, with 1,237 needed for a candidate to secure the nomination — but those intent on blocking Donald Trump are focused on a much more manageable number: 57.
That figure is 50 percent plus one of the 112-member Convention Rules Committee, the group with the power to end Trump’s grip on the GOP nomination. A victory there, said the leader of the “Free the Delegates” group on a Sunday night conference call, and it would be all downhill.
“Once it passes Rules … it’s just kind of an easy sell,” said Kendal Unruh, a delegate from Colorado, who predicted that with the committee’s approval, winning over a majority of the full convention would be easy. “They’re not going to be putting up strong resistance to this.”
The idea, I guess, is that if the Rules Committee does something dramatic to unbind the delegates, the media frenzy and burst of excitement, pro and anti, on the right will jar the delegates into voting their consciences. Problem one for Unruh: A lot of those delegates voting their conscience will be voting Trump. They prefer him on the merits. Problem two: Many more will vote Trump despite their misgivings because they feel obliged to reflect the will of the voters who chose him in their state’s primary or caucus. Problem three: Even those who don’t feel duty bound to honor the voters’ intentions will conclude that it’s simply too late in the game, with the party already too heavily invested in Trump, to change horses in mid-stream. And if you did try to change, you’d drown as the party split in two and Trump voters abandoned the GOP in the fall. Between the pro-Trump delegates, the small-d democrat delegates, and the too-late delegates, I can’t imagine getting to 1,237 would be that hard. You could have a thousand defections among the delegates if they’re freed to vote their conscience and Trump would still win comfortably. The numbers needed for a revolt are just too daunting, I think, unless Trump has another episode like the one with the Trump U judge before the convention that shakes the party’s faith in him irreparably.
Besides, there’s some reason to think that his numbers might rebound. Here’s the first good polling news for Trump in awhile, via Morning Consult:
He’s gained three points since his slide last week thanks to a post-Orlando spike in voters saying that security issues are just as important to them as economic ones. Most other polls since the nightclub attack haven’t showed much of a counterterror bounce for Trump, but if that’s starting to happen now, it’ll reassure some jittery delegates who are eyeing the Dump-Trumpers. Then again, he’s only up one point since June 1-4, which is within the poll’s margin of error. Is he getting a counterterror bounce or is he just reverting to his basic level of support after a tough week? Either way, any upward movement will help head off a coup.
Here’s Paul Ryan yesterday conspicuously refusing to encourage the delegates to stand by Trump. Unruh, the Dump Trump leader, noticed that. “Paul Ryan signed our permission slip,” she told WaPo, which should make things even more awkward between Trump and the GOP leadership. Ted Cruz sounded the same noncommittal note as Ryan when asked today about a delegate revolt: “I am not an elected delegate so I am going to let the delegates come to their own conclusion about what they should do at the convention.” Translation: Dump him if you want. Exit question: Joe Scarborough claimed this morning that there are all sorts of things Republicans could do to force Trump to run a more disciplined campaign. Uh, like what? He has all the leverage in this relationship. If they don’t stick with him and tolerate him doing what he wants to do, he’ll walk and 25 percent of the voters will walk with him. Unless there’s a $150 million buyout in the works, they’re stuck.