A Vote to Unbind Delegates and Dump Trump Could Actually Happen at the GOP Convention

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Donald Trump on campaign trail.
It wouldn't actually be too hard to stage a convention vote that embarrasses Trump and screws up his TV show.Photo: The Washington Post/2016 The Washington Post

It’s hard to find anyone, even in the fever swamps of #NeverTrump land, who seriously believes there is a real chance the Republican National Convention is going to dump Donald Trump and nominate someone else for president.

But as Eliana Johnson of National Review reports, it really would not take that much support to force a vote on unbinding delegates in Cleveland. Turns out that while a majority of the 112-member Convention Rules Committee sets the draft procedures for the confab, a minority report can be filed and must be voted on by the convention if one-fourth of the committee agrees to it. So, just 28 delegates could ensure there’s a vote on a plan to unbind all the delegates. And, at least one member of that committee, Randy Evans of Georgia (not known as a #NeverTrump man), tells Johnson the 28 votes may well be there.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily increase the infinitesimal odds of such a minority plank winning a majority of delegates. To cite the most obvious problem, even if delegates wanted to get rid of the candidate who won the primaries, they’re not going to do that without a consensus replacement, and one is conspicuously lacking now, just as it was for most of the nominating contest. 

But without question, a vote on (in effect) dumping Trump would be an embarrassment to the presumptive nominee, and could spoil the plot line of the Grand Infomercial he is planning for Cleveland. Those promoting it have, if not a realistic path to success, at least some leverage with Trump and the convention managers.

How would these potential spoilsports use that leverage? That’s hard to say, since it’s not like there’s some Dump Trump Central Coordinating Committee that can negotiate for the far-flung tribes of Republicans unhappy about the mogul becoming their Titular Leader. Johnson raises the possibility of some future nominating-process change that will, in the minds of #NeverTrumpers, help avoid a repetition of this year’s catastrophe. In a mirror image of Bernie Sanders’s demands, it’s said that Ted Cruz and others would like to see strong incentives to close primaries in the future. 

That is something that I think is supportable,” says Ken Cuccinelli, the president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, who led Cruz’s efforts to wrangle delegates.

“That could be a way for Cruz to say, ‘I know the system was broken, and we’re not going to let moderates and Democrats pick our nominee next time,’” [former Missouri state party chairman Ed] Martin says.

I seriously doubt Donald Trump gives a damn about what happens to the Republican nominating process in the future. So maybe he cuts a deal with Cruz or somebody and heads off a minority plank on unbinding delegates, and maybe they don’t have enough Rules Committee votes to create one in the first place. But if it were to happen, the vote on unbinding delegates would probably be hyped to the ends of the Earth and back as the last sure step that can be taken to keep Trump far from the White House. And Cleveland could become wild fun after all.