If you didn’t watch the “conscience amendment” go down in Committee live on C-SPAN3 last night, you missed out. Not because it was a spectacle but the opposite — Committee chair Enid Mickelsen wouldn’t even grant a roll-call vote to confirm that the “Dump Trump” contingent lacked the 28 votes needed to force a floor vote on unbinding the delegates. She had opponents of the “conscience” amendment stand, then supporters, then announced that she’d made her count and it was time to move on. Opponents far outnumbered supporters, to be sure, but that was always going to be the case. The question was how close supporters could get to the magic number. A roll call would have told us. Gotta hand it to the RNC and its lackeys: When they go in the tank for someone, they go all the way. Their reward will be endless scapegoating and abuse from Trump himself if/when things start going against him this fall. You deserve it, Reince. You went the extra mile.
#NeverTrump is never more. They were crushed last night in Cleveland at Rules Committee by a vote of 87-12. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2016
At the end of the day, all the “conscience amendment” would have done is give delegates the chance to unbind themselves. Literally no one, including anti-Trumper Mike Lee, thought there was majority support among the total delegation to do that. Trump and his campaign have insisted for the past two months that even if a “conscience” rule was implemented, they’d still win the nomination — and they’re almost certainly right. The fact that the RNC and its apparatchiks were intent on squashing a mere opportunity for delegates to consider the question tells you how entangled they are with Trump right now. For all the hype, the “conscience amendment” was likely to end up as a futile but feelgood gesture designed to placate the vocal anti-Trump minority so that, when Trump was nominated anyway, they could say that their voices were heard and at least they’d tried. Take it from Lee:
And he said that even if the delegates had been allowed to vote their consciences, “the odds are overwhelmingly — I mean really overwhelmingly — that Donald Trump would have still gotten the nomination.” That is likely overstating it. If a revolt had been allowed to grow, all bets would have been off as to what would happen.
But Lee said that the putdown of the “conscience” effort could spark a backlash.
“Now if we do it this way, I think the pressure doesn’t just go away. I think doing it that way would have allowed for some of the steam to be released, some of the pressure. This doesn’t just go away,” he said.
He’s kidding himself about a backlash but don’t begrudge the man a consolatory thought after a bitter defeat. In fact, I wonder if Reince and company didn’t inadvertently do anti-Trumpers a favor by sparing them the bitter pill of watching the delegates unbind themselves — and then nominate Trump anyway. If you’re an anti-Trump Republican, you can lie to yourself today and believe that the GOP isn’t really America’s new de facto National Front because the delegates themselves technically never had the option of rejecting Trump. Maybe they would have spiked him if they had! We all know the truth, but like I say, we all need our phony consolations.
As for Paul Manafort’s interview below, a couple of things. One: Chris Cuomo presents Trump’s big victory on the Committee as some sort of stunning upset given the early angst when Manafort joined the campaign about a delegate revolt in Cleveland. The angst back then, though, was about Cruz holding Trump below 1,237 delegates in the primaries and then winning on the second ballot by out-organizing him; once Cruz quit the race and Trump easily passed 1,237, he was always the heavy favorite to win in Cleveland. He had the pledged delegates he needed, he had Manafort and, more importantly, the RNC working for him, and the “Dump Trump” effort on the Rules Committee was small and weakly coordinated. The fact that squashing them is being presented as some major organizational triumph for Trump tells you a lot about his yardsticks for organizational competence. Two: “Never Trump is nevermore” is a cute line but it’s a misnomer. “Never Trump” means, and has always meant, refusing to vote for Trump in November. That’s all. Kendal Unruh, the leader of the “Dump Trump” (or “Free the Delegates”) movement, is as “Never Trump” as she’s ever been this morning, I assume. It’s because “Never Trump” sentiment is bigger than what’s happening at the convention that Mike Lee is warning about a backlash to the Committee’s decision to torpedo the “conscience” amendment. The “Dump Trump” effort is effectively dead, but if you want to see the state of “Never Trump,” go look at those NBC battleground polls out this morning.
Three: Should a candidate and his campaign manager be writing off votes by spiking the football in the faces of party members who oppose him? Tim Miller imagines Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook taking this approach:
Next imagine Robby Mook said that Hillary "acted out emotionally" cancelling her events last night as Manafort did re: Trump this am.
— Tim Miller (@Timodc) July 15, 2016
Okay, but someone who’s a true #NeverTrumper is unwinnable by definition. Spiking the ball doesn’t cost you anything with them. That’s been my only complaint about insults and gloating from pro-Trump Republicans: It’s fine so long as there’s no moronic “but you must unify with us!” plea attached. If Manafort’s formally kissing off some right-wing votes then he should let it rip with his end-zone dance. I’ve … never seen a campaign manager celebrate at the expense of elements of his own party base in the middle of a national campaign, but hey. They told us Trump was a different kind of candidate. And so he is. Besides, look at it from Manafort’s perspective: He’s gotten very rich working for guys who don’t care, and don’t need to care, what their political opponents think.
In lieu of an exit question, here’s Unruh and a few other anti-Trumpers with a statement about why they’re #NeverTrump. Yes, even now.