You know it’s serious because they’ve already got, like, 30 of the 1,237 people they’ll need to pull off this coup.
No, no, sorry — I shouldn’t scoff. At least they’re trying. They see that this locomotive’s on course to crash so they’re doing what they can at the last minute to steer it onto another track. Where, er, it’ll also crash.
WaPo’s right, though, that this is newsy insofar as it’s the first signs of life of a “dump Trump” movement among the people who’ll actually be casting ballots in Cleveland.
“This literally is an ‘Anybody but Trump’ movement,” said Kendal Unruh, a Republican delegate from Colorado who is leading the campaign. “Nobody has any idea who is going to step in and be the nominee, but we’re not worried about that. We’re just doing that job to make sure that he’s not the face of our party.”…
The campaign kicked off in earnest Thursday night on a conference call with at least 30 delegates from 15 states, according to multiple participants.
After weeks of fielding phone calls, emails and direct messages sent via Facebook and Twitter, Unruh is now partnered with Regina Thomson, another Colorado Republican delegate. They have recruited regional coordinators in Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Washington and other states…
Steve Lonegan, a veteran GOP operative from New Jersey, is not a delegate but is advising the group and helping them build financial support through a super PAC, Courageous Conservatives, that backed Cruz in the primary. The group has said it is willing to spend money on advertising and to help delegates across the country find each other.
Unruh, Thomson, and Lonegan are all Cruz backers, as chance would have it. One major obstacle to the “dump Trump” recruiting: No official list of all national delegates to the Republican convention has been publicly released, and per WaPo, the RNC might decide not to release it going forward despite claiming that they would. Why not? One possibility is that they’re leery of giving Trump and Roger Stone a target list of people to harass if the delegates end up revolting against Trump’s nomination. If that’s the case, then Stone’s winking at intimidation tactics will have worked like a charm by making it harder for anti-Trump delegates to seek each other out. (Hard but not impossible: Delegates who were chosen in state elections obviously are publicly known.) But maybe it’s not Stone that the RNC’s worried about. Maybe they really do want to hobble a “dump Trump” movement logistically, fearing that it’ll either fail but wound Trump in the process or it’ll succeed and the party will split between Trump and the new nominee. Whatever the outcome, if they’re worried about “protests” turning into riots and giving the GOP a black eye for the rest of the campaign, they may be inclined to appease Trump by holding back any information they have on delegates that might be used to facilitate a coup. Imagine that scenario. Trump wins the nomination, but just barely — thanks to dogged efforts by “the establishment” to protect him.
To give you a sense of how difficult it’ll be to replace him, the dump-Trumpers will need a majority in their favor not just among the total delegates but probably on the Rules Committee too. There are ways in theory to oust Trump without changing any of the convention’s rules, but that would force anti-Trumpers to argue that all delegates are unbound and free to vote their consciences even under the current rules, which would mean telling Republican voters that the party never intended to be bound by the results of the 50+ primaries we just went through. If you’re going to pull a coup, I think, you shouldn’t get cute with it. Do it forthrightly. Have the Rules Committee change the rules and formally give delegates the right to vote their consciences notwithstanding the primary results. Can the dump-Trumpers convince more than half of the Committee to do that? I should rephrase: Can Trump convince more than half of the Committee to do that? Trump himself is the best prosecutor of the “dump Trump” case, after all; Hillary Clinton’s new six-point lead in the national polls has less to do with her numbers rising than with Trump’s falling via self-inflicted wounds. If he continues shooting himself in the foot, it won’t matter much whether Unruh and the dump-Trump group have a master list of delegates they can use to lobby their colleagues. Other delegates will seek them out in despair over Trump. Today’s WaPo story is the equivalent of placing an ad on the Drudge Report encouraging any delegates who are quietly nursing doubts about Trump to reach out and join the resistance.
One other point. In reality, the dump-Trumpers will need a lot more than 1,237 members on the floor if the party’s going to have a chance this fall to win with a new nominee. They could choose someone else as nominee via a bare majority, but the narrower the margin is, the more dubious ousting Trump will seem and the hotter the “civil war!” media coverage will be. Ideally, if you’re going to reject Trump and swap in a Scott Walker or whoever, you want a heavy majority of delegates in favor to signal some sort of broad party consensus that he’s disqualified himself. And I don’t think that’s possible. Too many delegates there will be Trump loyalists for anti-Trumpers to be able to assemble anything like a supermajority against him.
Here’s Paul Ryan telling Chuck Todd that he’d never tell any House Republicans they shouldn’t vote their conscience this fall. It’s Todd who uses the word “conscience” first but WaPo’s right in noticing that that’s a loaded term as delegates mull what to do. If they dump Trump, it’ll be conscience that drives them. And here’s the Speaker of the House, who continues to support Trump, essentially blessing the idea that no one should feel obliged to support him unless they sincerely support him — which Ryan himself clearly doesn’t. In fact, he all but admits here that he’s supporting Trump only because that’s what the Speaker’s obliged to do vis-a-vis his party’s presumptive nominee. Huh.