About 200 unbound delegates among several states could keep Donald Trump from getting the GOP nomination, regardless of how many primary victories he has. Since they’re unbound, they are not obligated to vote for Donald Trump at the national convention, even if he happened to win their respective states’ primaries.
Of course, these unbound delegates could also push Donald Trump over the top. The Washington Post reported:
West Virginia looks perfect for Donald Trump: a struggling working-class state filled with the types of voters who have backed him elsewhere and could deliver one of his biggest victories.
But a sweep there might not matter. That’s because as many as 34 delegates — the entire contingent — may be free to back whomever they want at the Republican National Convention.
Much the same is true in Pennsylvania, home to a hotly contested April 26 primary, where there are 54 uncommitted delegates. Other states and territories, from Colorado to Wyoming to Guam, will also send squads of unbound representatives.
These are the swing voters of the GOP nominating contest, nearly 200 activists and elected leaders beholden to nothing except their personal judgment and empowered to make or break candidacies.
It’s interesting listening to conservative talk radio these days and comparing the talking points to four years ago. A Republican National Committee (RNC) rule change took place in August of 2012, and now, even commentators like Sean Hannity are acknowledging that it was put in place specifically to keep Ron Paul from getting the nomination.
Two years ago, Forbes reported on this infamous rule change:
Take a look at how Republican National Committee Rule No. 40(b) read before the 2012 convention changes:
“Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a plurality of the delegates from each of five (5) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination.”
Simply put, the rule meant that any candidate for the GOP presidential nomination who showed up at the convention with the largest number of delegates in five states—or was able to twist enough arms at the convention to achieve a plurality of delegates in five states—was entitled to have his or her name placed in nomination at the convention.
Recall that Ron Paul had officially accomplished at least a plurality of the delegates from four states (Iowa, Maine, Minnesota and Louisiana) and appeared to have enough delegates from Nevada, Iowa, Washington, Colorado and Missouri ready to vote for him at the convention to provide a plurality of votes in some, if not all, of these states.
They changed the rules from requiring a plurality of delegates in five states to a majority of delegates in eight states. That’s all that was needed to keep Ron Paul from competing for the nomination on the convention floor. Ron Paul had hundreds of supporters at the national convention in delegate positions, but they were either prohibited from voting for him, stripped of their delegate status through rule changes, or their votes were “not heard.”
Four years ago – if Hannity ever even mentioned that rule change – he would have been supportive of it, because he and the rest of the GOP establishment opposed Ron Paul. They were glad that he was cheated out of the nomination, because they all wanted to have this false perception that the party “united” behind Mitt Romney. A lot of good that did.
But now, Hannity talks about that rule change as if it’s evidence of a power-hungry GOP establishment elite handpicking a nominee (Paul Ryan?) and disregarding the voice of the people (Trump).
I don’t necessarily disagree with that assessment, but where was he four years ago when the rule change actually occurred that was done for the sole purpose of cheating Ron Paul out of the nomination? He was too busy cheerleading for Romney.
If you recall, an RNC rules committee member Curly Haugland recently made headlines when he said that the people don’t pick the nominee; the party does. He told CNBC:
“The media has created the perception that the voters choose the nomination. That’s the conflict here… The rules are still designed to have a political party choose its nominee at a convention. That’s just the way it is. I can’t help it. Don’t hate me because I love the rules.”
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He might be stating the grim reality of the nomination process, but I would disagree with him that the rules are “designed to have a political party choose its nominee.” The rules are designed such that delegates get selected at the local level, and some of those delegates end up at the national convention where they vote for a candidate within the bounds of states’ respective delegate rules. Some states bind their delegates to vote for the winner of that state’s primary contest, but release them to vote for their preference after the first ballot. Other states unbind their delegates after the second or third ballot. Others have completely unbound delegates.
The primaries are little more than beauty contests, and always have been. If you really want to push for a candidate, you’ve got to get involved in the local delegate process and work your way up as far as you can go, because in the end, it’s the delegates who select the nominee. And you’ve got to be familiar with parliamentary procedure, because the “old guard” at the local level and above will do whatever maneuvers they have to do in order to keep the outsiders out – and the insiders in.
I was a delegate in 2008 and in 2012. In 2008, I was able to make it up to the state convention which turned out to be a sappy love fest for John McCain. In 2012, I couldn’t get any further than the county convention, because I had a very pregnant wife who needed me home. It’s difficult and costly, but it’s really the only way to see your candidate of choice win, if your candidate of choice is not the choice of the establishment.
Commentators like Erick Erickson – who’s leading a national “Stop Trump” campaign – love what Ted Cruz and his supporters are doing. Interestingly, Erickson vehemently opposed Ron Paul and his supporters for becoming actively involved in the delegate process, but he’s celebrating Ted Cruz for doing the exact same thing.
Ron Paul supporters understood the importance of the delegate process. That’s why the Ron Paul campaign was educating their supporters early on back in 2007 about the rules and how to become delegates. The Ron Paul supporters did exactly what Ted Cruz has been doing for the past year or so.
When Ron Paul did it, he and his supporters were called “cheaters.” Now that Ted Cruz is doing it, the anti-Trump people are applauding Cruz’s organization and strategy. And of course, the Trump people aren’t happy, because they know they might have a problem with unbound delegates to deal with.
In reality, the Ted Cruz people are only following the rules, as did the Ron Paul folks in 2008 and 2012. They weren’t and aren’t “cheating” the system. They’re working within the system the way it was designed. You don’t have to be a Cruz supporter or a Ron Paul supporter to see that.
Ron Paul supporters tried to sound the alarm about what the RNC was doing at the last minute to cheat Ron Paul out of the nomination. How did the GOP elite and the media establishment respond then? What a bunch of paranoid conspiracy theorists! But now, that rule change is “common knowledge.”
Four years later, those rule changes still stand. Trump certainly has a plurality of delegates in many states, but not necessarily a majority. It’s clear that the establishment doesn’t want Trump (I don’t think they want Cruz either), and they’ll do anything to stop him. The very rules they put in place to stop Ron Paul from “sneaking” the nomination they’re going to use to help Ted Cruz – or someone else not on the ballot – “sneak” the nomination from Trump.
I suppose this is all human nature. People like the rules when they benefit from them. As soon as they don’t benefit from them, they hate the rules and either break them or force a draconian change.
If the RNC sees that Ted Cruz is unsuccessful in keeping Trump from obtaining that “magic number” of delegates, and Trump gets to the convention with a majority, expect the RNC rules committee to change the rules again at the last minute such that Trump doesn’t get the nomination.
Like that rules committee member said, the people don’t choose the nominee – not even the delegates do anymore; the party does. That’s Rule #1, and it will never be broken or changed.