Here's the quick backstory: Committed anti-Trump forces within the GOP and conservative movement have been angling to upend his nomination by changing the convention rules and unbinding delegates, allowing everyone to vote their conscience on the opening ballot. (For what it's worth, while I've ardently opposed Trump at every step and cannot support his nomination, I've argued that altering the rules that these same people cited when it suited their anti-Trump purposes would be unfair and cynical). Though the RNC has seen to it that the convention rules committee is stacked with a pro-Trump majority, it only takes one-quarter of voting members to issue a "minority report," which would trigger a simple-majority, up-or-down floor vote among all delegates. Producing a successful minority report requires 28 votes in committee. Does the #NeverTrump faction have the votes? Not quite, but they may be getting close -- and may have a key ally jumping on board. NBC News reports:
Anti-Donald Trump forces are within striking distance of getting a vote on a measure aimed at challenging his nomination at the GOP convention next week. An NBC News whip count of convention Rules Committee delegates finds that the Free the Delegates movement -- a grassroots group of delegates pushing a rules change to allow bound delegates to vote their "conscience" -- can count on at least 16 delegates open to the change based on delegates' public statements, backgrounds and social media profiles. That's more than halfway to the 28 votes Trump detractors would need to produce a minority report on their proposal, which would give it a vote on the convention floor. At least four more delegates are undecided, while the positions of another 22 remain unknown and 68 have either gone on-record as opposed or their history of support for Trump suggests they would be. The effort could get a boost from Utah Sen. Mike Lee and his wife, two delegates on the Rules Committee that both the Trump campaign and Free the Delegates operatives expect to vote in favor of the conscience clause. Lee was an early endorser and remains a good friend of Sen. Ted Cruz, and remains fiercely critical of the presumptive GOP nominee. Lee's support could give cover to undecided delegates wary of backlash from GOP leaders and sway some undecideds.
Trump's vote-whippers say they're confident their "free the delegates" foes won't marshall the critical mass they need, but how reliable is Trump's organization on...anything, really? I wouldn't put my money on this effort succeeding, but let's say Trump's entrenched critics do manage to compel a floor vote. Then what? There have been conflicting accounts of how many floor delegates are personally loyal to Trump, regardless of their bound obligations, and how many would immediately bolt if given the chance. For example, would this group that reportedly threw in the towel after Ted Cruz agreed to speak at Trump's convention hop back aboard the bandwagon if there was blood in the water? Next, absent a consensus alternative, isn't it fairly likely that an unbound pool of delegates would move forward and nominate Trump anyway? Optics-wise, a failed insurrection in committee would be a blip of a story. A full floor vote in which hundreds and hundreds of delegates voted to oust their party's presumptive nominee would be a much more embarrassing spectacle for the GOP, at least in the short term. That's why the Republican National Committee -- the reviled "establishment" -- is moving heaven and earth to prevent it. While we're rolling, here's another question: Isn't Hillary's bad polling week landing at exactly the wrong time for the anti-Trump contingent? The moment may prove fleeting, but a (mixed) spate of battleground polls showing a competitive race in the wake of Hillary's email disgrace may take some of the wind out of the sails of those fighting to dethrone The Donald in Cleveland.
On the other hand, delegates hoping to persuade their peers that Trump (a) cannot be trusted to lead the party, and (b), seems pathologically incapable of retaining any advantage Hillary may hand him, won't have to stretch too hard for fresh evidence. Just this week, Trump basically expressed worrisome ambivalence on the question of which party should control the Senate in 2017. This, after he joked (?) that he may decline to actually serve if he's elected. Not to worry, one of his confidantes assures us, I'm "fairly certain" (!) he'd assume the office to which he was elected. Terrific. And then there's Trump's mind-boggling decision to escalate a legal fight -- bigly! -- with an estranged former flunky. Not only does this ugly lawsuit mess create a newly-minted, shiny media distraction from Hillary's slump, it dredges up a mostly-ignored, salacious rumor about an illicit affair between two high-profile campaign aides (one of whom is apparently still being paid by Team Trump, even as he pulls a CNN paycheck). Now, smack dab in the middle of a general election campaign, there will be depositions and drama on top of the Trump University scandal -- which isn't going away. Again, Trump did this by choice. Like another powerful narcissist, it seem like he just can't help himself. I'll leave you with Paul Ryan trying to convince a young Trump-averse Republican that he should suck it up and vote for Trump in November. Convincing?
Ryan also blasted Hillary Clinton over her email scandal, correctly stating that she sees herself as above the law.