A Contested Convention After All?

By Jim Ellis

June 27, 2016 — There is clear evidence that “Never Trump” Republican national delegates are organizing an effort to force a national convention rules change and, in effect, fully open the floor proceedings when all delegations gather in Cleveland.

The movement received a shot in the arm earlier in the week when Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus appointed former US Rep. Enid Greene Mickelsen (R-UT) as chair of the national convention rules committee, and veteran RNC committeeman and former White House staff member Ron Kaufman (R-MA) as her co-chair. In doing so, Priebus by-passed the current RNC eules committee chairman, Arizona committeeman Bruce Ash, who is a strong proponent for keeping the rules consistent.

That’s not to say that Mickelsen and Kaufman would be sympathetic to opening the convention, but it was clear that Ash is hostile to the idea. In media interviews, Ash repeatedly stated that Donald Trump has abided by all party rules and fairly won the nomination through his particular strength in primaries. Trump has amassed more votes than any Republican candidate in history, meaning his presidential nomination is clearly legitimate. Ash further indicated that the GOP delegates, including himself, represent the Republican voters of their states, and they have clearly selected Trump.

A week before the convention begins in Cleveland on July 18, delegates will participate in three committee proceedings: platform, credentials, and of course, rules. It is in the latter grouping where the first salvo would be fired to free the delegates.

The insurgents will lobby for rules committee members to vote to change previous convention policy, and the procedures that governed the states through the 2016 primary and caucus process. They advocate doing away with state requirements, either by law or party rule, that the individual delegates be bound to the Republican primary or caucus vote ratios. All but six delegations are bound on the first ballot, and some must continue fulfilling their pledges through a second and even a third roll call ballot.

The anti-Trump forces further want the convention opened to the point that the only required tenet is for the eventual Republican nominee, whoever that individual may be, to capture the 1,237 votes necessary to clinch a delegate majority.

If the Rules Committee adopts the proposed changes, then the full convention would have to accept the committee report on the first day of the floor proceedings, which would instigate a major fight and undoubtedly cast the remainder of the convention into chaos.

It is unlikely that such a rogue move succeeds, but we may at least see an attempt. If the Never Trump ploy were to work, and the convention is thrown open to all delegates, then a chaotic proceeding would actually produce the type of result that the insurgent delegates are claiming will happen under the present configuration. Such an outcome could only damage the national Republican Party beyond recognition.

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