I hope it happens, not because it would embarrass Trump but because it’d be amusing to watch the RNC scramble to fix the “optics” of empty seats. Would they actually start hiring seat-fillers? Supposedly only delegates are allowed to sit in the delegate sections on the floor, but if Trumpism means anything, it means breaking the rules if they get in the way of what makes the great man happy.
They’re not threatening this as a true protest — or at least, they weren’t before the Rules fiasco this afternoon — but rather as leverage to secure a few rule changes from the RNC for the 2020 primaries. If the party agrees to tilt the board a bit towards conservative candidates (i.e. Ted Cruz) then Cruz’s delegates will be good boys and girls this week. If this were a true protest and they really wanted to screw Trump, they wouldn’t telegraph it. They’d show up for his acceptance speech on Thursday and then leave en masse five minutes into it.
[Pro-Cruz] forces want to revise the rules that will reward states with closed primaries — and for the RNC and Trump camp to allow Cruz’s name to be placed in nomination from the convention floor…
From their end, the Cruz forces have the power to somewhat disrupt the convention over the first two days – albeit with little power to affect the ultimate outcome of Trump receiving the nomination. One threat the Cruz forces are said to be holding over the heads of the RNC and the Trump campaign is the specter of a large group of delegates – in the hundreds – simply leaving town after Cruz speaks on Wednesday night, exposing the nominee to the prospect of televised images of empty seats in the Quicken Loans Arena. It’s an open question whether there are enough alternate delegates who can be rallied to fill such a number of seats…
A source close to Cruz tells Fox News that the key sticking point is Cruz’s speaking slot and specifically the content of his speech. The original agreement between team Trump and team Cruz allowed Cruz to speak without offering a formal endorsement of Trump. So far, Trump’s folks have not asked to look at the speech.
The deal being offered, supposedly, is that Cruz’s backers will behave themselves if Cruz’s name is placed in nomination as symbolic recognition of his second-place finish and the party agrees to award more delegates to closed primaries in 2020 (which would make it harder for a centrist candidate like Trump to win by attracting independents and Democrats). Cruz himself may be asked to formally agree to some sort of “unity pledge,” which presumably would fall short of an outright endorsement. Remember, Cruz is trying to walk a line this week between implicitly endorsing Trump, which is what his speaking at the convention signals, without explicitly endorsing him. He doesn’t want to let the E-word escape his lips or else he won’t be able to boast during the 2020 primaries, “I stayed true to conservatism and never endorsed the pretender Trump.” But he also wants to make some gesture of loyalty towards Trump so that, if he wins the nomination in 2020, he can turn around and say to all the anti-Cruzers, “I was a good soldier for the last nominee, wasn’t I?” If Trump demands that he agree to a “unity pledge,” it’ll probably be finessed in lawyerly fashion so that it says that defeating Hillary Clinton is the highest priority this year without specifically saying that voting for Trump is the way to do it. All of this is too clever by half, as is often the case with Cruz’s strategic gambits, but he understands that would-be Cruz voters don’t need a convincing excuse to justify his decision to give a speech this week. All they need is some excuse, some fig leaf that’ll ease their conscience when they’re leaning towards him in 2020 but searching for some reason to give him a pass for what he’s doing now. “I never said the E-word” is the fig leaf.
Oh, here’s something else from the Fox piece quoted above. What does this mean? “Push back” when Trump’s “interests” are “threatened”?
On the Trump side, Republican consultant and Trump adviser Roger Stone is said to have mobilized a group of 1,000 people to push back wherever his candidate’s interests are being threatened.
Stone, I’d guess, would say that’s a reference to protesters, nothing more. If anti-Trump groups show up outside the arena and start getting media coverage, pro-Trumpers will show up with their signs too to remind reporters that there are people on both sides. But Stone has had more ambitious plans for “pushback” in the past: He was the guy who infamously suggested having Trump fans visit the hotel rooms of delegates who refused to vote for Trump when Cruz was still in the race and it looked like he might force a second ballot. Putting this detail in a story about pro-Cruz delegates embarrassing Trump with a walkout suggests that Fox thinks the “pushback” might involve trying to intimidate them too. Does Trump have his own gang now? Will Mike Lee, Ken Cuccinelli, and the other anti-Trumpers who tried to revolt today be getting a visit from it?
Here’s Glenn Beck insisting (at 4:00) that if Cruz ends up endorsing Trump in his speech even in a “soft” way, it’ll mean there’s no one left in Washington he can trust. The hard truth: If Cruz didn’t want to signal a “soft” endorsement of Trump he wouldn’t be in Cleveland in the first place. Exit question: Is the walkout going to happen now that the RNC angered anti-Trumpers with today’s rigged Rules vote? This maneuver may have passed from negotiation tactic into the realm of true protest now.
Update: Good question. Ted?
Is @tedcruz sure he wants to address the convention if his allies keep getting silenced by the chair on the floor?
— jimgeraghty (@jimgeraghty) July 18, 2016