We've been arguing for months that Donald Trump's Republican "loyalty" pledge isn't worth the paper it was printed on. He's a mercurial and capricious man whose strategic thinking -- if you can call it that -- hurdles from one emotional pole to the other, depending on his current state of mind. Which is exactly what one wants in a Commander-in-Chief, right? That aside, here he is officially discarding his previous vow on CNN Tuesday night, based on the flimsy, subjective-to-meaningless assertion that he hasn't been "treated fairly," or whatever:
The next day, Allahpundit outlined what a bafflingly insane move this was. As the frontrunner with the only possible path to clinching the nomination before Cleveland, it's very much in Trump's interest to insist upon absolute fealty to the presidential field's group promise. Plus, as the likeliest nominee, he's probably going to have to lean hard on a Republican unity message sooner or later. Yet there he was, casually flushing his pledge down the toilet, apparently in a fit of pique over...whatever his grudge of the day was. It's hard to keep track. AP framed Trump's impulsive decision as the latest nugget of evidence that Trump is still running a "winging it" campaign, based on his gut feelings and whims. Now it looks like the low-information emotionalism that guided this flippant decision could damage his chances of winning the nomination even more than initially thought. Time's Zeke Miller reports:
Donald Trump’s announcement that he no longer stands by a pledge to support the GOP has thrown his hold on South Carolina’s 50 delegates in doubt. The Palmetto State was one of several that required candidates to pledge their loyalty to the party’s eventual nominee in order to secure a slot on the primary ballot. Though Trump won all of the state’s delegates in the Feb. 20 primary, anti-Trump forces are plotting to contest their binding to Trump because of his threat on the pledge Tuesday...South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore gave credence to the anti-Trump claims. “Breaking South Carolina’s presidential primary ballot pledge raises some unanswered legal questions that no one person can answer,” he told TIME. “However, a court or national convention Committee on Contests could resolve them. It could put delegates in jeopardy.” When Trump filed for the ballot in South Carolina he signed a pledge stating to “hereby affirm that I generally believe in and intend to support the nominees and platform of the Republican Party in the November 8, 2016 general election.” The challenge, which could only be filed once delegates are selected, would seek to allow them to be free-agents on the first ballot..."
This is a textbook definition of an unforced error, committed for absolutely no good reason. Hang on, you may ask, didn't didn't Cruz and Kasich do the same thing? Not exactly. Both hedged, hard, but didn't explicitly break their vow, as Trump did. That's the difference between the celebrity billionaire and disciplined candidates who understand that words have consequences. But let's say for the sake of argument that Cruz and Kasich (and Rubio, whose delegates are relevant) also effectively breached the terms of the pledge. Fine. Trump could petition to disqualify some of their delegates in states where these rules apply (Trump really messed up vis-a-vis South Carolina, where he won 50 delegates that may well be in jeopardy now). If he succeeds, that would diminish their delegate totals, but such an outcome wouldn't really hurt them very much. Neither Cruz nor Kasich has a prayer of getting to Cleveland with the nomination sewn up, having secured majority of delegates. Their lone hope is a contested multi-ballot convention. So while their ultimate delegate total is an interesting subplot, it pales in comparison to the overarching goal of holding Trump below 1,237 -- and as low as possible. In that sense, stripping delegates based on loyalty pledge-related regulations only hurts Trump. So, what if Trump realizes his mistake and re-embraces the pledge? Plus, who's to say that he actually dropped the pledge in a single televised answer? And who gets to decide these things anyway? Such decisions could very conceivably end up in front of the GOP convention rules committee, which is currently being stacked with anti-Trump delegates by Ted Cruz's razor sharp legal team and other allies who oppose Trump.
Trumpworld was already getting out-lawyered and outmaneuvered before he shot himself in the foot by running his mouth off on CNN. It's almost as if he's unprepared for this fight and has been repeatedly failed by his sloppy, amateurish team -- which he always tells us is brimming with the very brightest lights. Perhaps Trump isn't being well served by his stated philosophy of surrounding himself with "unsuccessful" people in order to guarantee respect and affirm his sense of superiority. Stay tuned.