After participating at CPAC 2016 as a participant, sponsor, panelist, and as a former director of CPAC, the #NeverTrump movement is certainly alive and seems to be gaining steam, especially after the last two Republican primary debates. The #NeverTrump movement began late last month as an online and grassroots movement to defeat or deny Donald Trump the GOP presidential nomination.
The Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC for short, is the annual gathering of movement conservatives from around the country to mobilize, engage, and invigorate the conservative grassroots movement and has approximately 5,000+ conference participants each year. Because it brings so many people from many disparate parts of the country, many jokingly refer to it as the annual “Woodstock for Conservatives.”
With Trump deciding last minute not to speak at CPAC (an ironic move as CPAC 2011 was his breakout political speech), rumors ran amok as to whether or not he changed his mind because he was either afraid to speak in front of a true movement conservative audience at this stage in the primary campaign, or if he needed to leave for Kansas as the race between him and Sen. Ted Cruz began to tighten in the last couple of days after the Thursday GOP debate. There were also rumors of a large walk-out occurring if Trump spoke, as there was much controversy surrounding the decision of CPAC organizers to invite him in the first place because of his questionable, non-conservative stances on policy issues.
A consistent conversation throughout CPAC that kept resurfacing is that if you are not a Trump supporter, what would the #NeverTrump movement need to do to defeat Trump? Below, I lay out the four scenarios brought up consistently throughout the weekend.It should be noted that these were not all from the K St./Beltway/Establishment crowd, but from many movement grassroots conservatives and activists from around the country, which most seemed to be supporting Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, according to the CPAC 2016 Presidential Straw Poll results.
1.) The Big Short, Long Slog
Wait till March 16th – the day after the March 15th primaries. If Marco Rubio or John Kasich doesn’t win their home state, there is a good chance one or both will drop out, thus allowing Cruz the opportunity to consolidate the anti-Trump vote. This seems to be the most likely scenario if Cruz is the only candidate who wins GOP primary contests in the next two weeks, other than Trump.
2.) The Unity Ticket
Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio or John Kasich form a unity ticket. Since Ted Cruz seems to be the only candidate able to beat Trump at the polls in certain states, Cruz may wish to broker a deal with either Rubio or Kasich to be his Vice Presidential candidate. This would be an effort to try and consolidate the anti-Trump vote. The unity ticket VP winner would be determined by who wins their home state – Rubio or Kasich.
It’s hard to imagine this for several reasons, if not the obvious one – all three wants and believes they can win the nomination. The other reason is that if one or both loses their home state (Rubio and Kasich), would Cruz want to make a deal with someone who can’t win their own state? But if Cruz does become the anti-Trump consensus candidate, he may want to quickly consolidate this vote and assuage party leaders about his own nomination. Rubio and Kasich could do a unity ticket, but it seems unlikely if one or both do not win their home states like Cruz did last week in the Texas GOP primary.
3.) Form A “#NeverTrump” Alliance
No one drops out after March 15th. This was former GOP presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romeny’s chief proposal from his impassioned speech on Thursday. Romney spoke at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah denouncing Donald Trump as a “fraud,” and urged GOP unity in opposition to Trump’s candidacy. Romney proposed denying Trump the minimum number of convention delegates necessary to win the nomination.
In this scenario, Cruz/Rubio/Kasich would need to form an unofficial alliance to deny Trump winning a majority of convention delegates throughout the remainder of the primary. This would then lead to the “Brokered Convention” idea, in which all delegates are free to vote for whom they’d like if the first ballot does not allow one candidate a majority of votes.
I think this is more of a K St./Beltway/Establishment dream and I am not sure how realistic it would be, not to mention the all-out civil war that would ensue within the Republican Party because of it. Even if you were to deny Trump the nomination, which candidate would the delegates agree upon as the consensus nominee – Rubio, Kasich, or Cruz? Could get very ugly and risk disunity going into the fall election.
4.) The Hail Romney
Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan will save the day. If the anti-Trump delegation was able to deny Trump the nomination, what happens if they aren’t able to consolidate around one of the current presidential candidates? Many have suggested that Romney or Ryan could be drafted as a consensus candidate. There is some historical precedence here in the Republican Party (James Garfield – 1880) but it rarely ever happens anymore. This option will depend on how desperate the Republican Party is and how far they are willing to go to dislodge Trump.
The bottom line is that Trump has solidified his base of support, which is approximately 30-35% of people voting in GOP primaries. If #NeverTrump options one or two do not happen by March 16th, options three or four would need to be deployed to stop Trump, but by then, an new campaign could surface called #DealWithTrump.
Note: The Conservative Book Club does not endorse presidential candidates. This article’s purpose is to highlight options being discussed by non-Trump supporters at the annual CPAC 2016 conference, which took place this past weekend.