I’ve got the same problem here as I did in the post yesterday about Trump possibly forfeiting his delegates in South Carolina. Namely, what would constitute formal and final repudiation of the pledge sufficient to trigger penalties? If Trump says “I’m done with the pledge” on Monday and then on Tuesday says something squishy like “I suppose I could support Ted as nominee but it’d be tough,” does that qualify as breaking the pledge? Neither he nor Cruz are going to sign something affirming that they’re going back on their word, so you’ll have to tease out their intentions from scattershot verbal statements.
“We’re going into potentially — we don’t know for sure — but potentially an open convention. So the candidates, I think, are going to posture a little bit as far as what they are willing to do and who they’re willing to support and who they’re not,” [Reince Priebus] told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren…
“I’m not really worried about in regards supporting the eventual nominee or the party,” he said. “They’ve all agreed to that, by virtue of in one case signing our data agreement. They’re not going to get the data and the tools of the RNC, and run to be our nominee, and tell me that they’re not going to support the party. It doesn’t work that way. They’re running to be the nominee of our party.”
I wonder who’d consider voter data collected by the RNC more valuable, Trump or Cruz. In theory it’s Trump because his data operation isn’t as robust as Cruz’s; he needs all the institutional help he can get. In practice, though, Trump’s not a guy who wins with microtargeting. He wins by utterly dominating earned media, broadcasting his message far and wide, and letting voters come find him. Cruz is the nerd who’s trying to identify potential support at a granular level and reach out to it.
But never mind that. Give me a scenario where the RNC musters the balls to cut off Trump or Cruz from its voter data because of some vague verbal repudiation of the pledge. Imagine Trump continues to say in interviews that he no longer honors the pledge and, after two more months of primaries, he’s on the brink of clinching the nomination if he can win big in California. “I want the voter data for California,” he tells the RNC. Is there any possibility that the RNC says no because he broke the pledge, knowing that Trump fans will screech that they’ve rigged the game against him by withholding the data? The spin is, was, and will continue to be what it is in the excerpt above — the candidates are merely “posturing,” they fully intend to honor the pledge, therefore they’re entitled to any help from the RNC they desire. The karmic payback will come when the eventual loser at the convention, whom the RNC will continue to insist never broke their pledge, turns around afterward and says he won’t support the nominee in the general election, making a mockery of the RNC’s spin. Trump in particular has zero reason not to do that. Cruz, as a sitting senator, might want some help from the RNC in his next Senate race but Trump won’t care at all what the party thinks of him after this election. He can say anything he wants about upholding or breaking his pledge and there’s nothing realistically that Priebus can do.
One wrinkle, though. What if the South Carolina GOP really does determine that Trump broke his pledge and SC’s delegates are therefore unbound? An official finding from a state Republican Party that the pledge has been repudiated would contradict the RNC’s position that this is mere “posturing” and Trump didn’t really mean it. Better get your story straight, boys.
In lieu of an exit question, since we’re on the subject of Trump and the RNC, here’s the best part from the Times’s story on their meeting yesterday:
[W]hen Mr. Priebus explained that each campaign needed to be prepared to fight for delegates at each state’s convention, Mr. Trump turned to his aides and suggested that they had not been doing what they needed to do, the people briefed on the meeting said.
Team Trump denies it, of course.