What Now?

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 11, 2016 — The weekend Donald Trump revelations have sent the Republican camp scrambling, yet again. Before Sunday night’s debate: at least a score of GOP officeholders and party leaders had withdrawn their support for Trump, the Republican National Committee chairman put the Trump Victory program on hold, and a movement was beginning to develop within the RNC membership to remove their nominated presidential candidate.

Though the ballot finalization deadline has past in all states, and Trump’s name will appear on every voting mechanism Nov. 8 and in early voting (in six states voters have already begun casting ballots), some believe that the 168-member Republican National Committee, by two-thirds vote, could still remove their presidential nominee. They reference the Committee’s Rule 9, part of which reads:

(a) The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise of the Republican candidate for President of the United States or the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States, as nominated by the national convention, or the Republican National Committee may reconvene the national convention for the purpose of filling any such vacancies.

What some are using to justify their belief that members can remove their nominee is the phrase “or otherwise” in the list of reasons that create a vacancy. Other Republican legal experts, such as former RNC General Counsel Ben Ginsburg, stated that Rule 9 does not provide members the power to change nominees at will.

Taking the supposition of removing Trump to the next step, the Committee would vote to officially remove him as the Republican nominee but still attempt to convince voters to check Trump’s name on the ballot. Such action would theoretically give Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence Electoral College standing. The long-shot strategy further includes convincing enough national electors to vote for Pence when the Electoral College convenes in the 50 state capitols on Dec. 14 (the Wednesday after the second Monday in December). There, they would either cobble together a Pence majority, or force the election into the House of Representatives because no candidate would command the necessary 270 electoral votes to actually win election.

Trump’s strong debate performance Monday night likely stopped the committee members who might attempt to implement the aforementioned course, but that does not solve their deficit problem against Hillary Clinton.

Though the first post-Trump scandal poll, from Politico/Morning Consult on Saturday (1,549 registered voters), found the Republican trailing Clinton by only four points (42-38 percent) with 75 percent of Republican respondents saying that he should remain in the race, we can expect these numbers to dip again at least in the short term.

On the other hand, the large number of deserting Republican officeholders and party insiders will again probably do little to dissuade the Trump base voter because such action reinforces his mantel as the true anti-establishment candidate.

With the GOP most likely moving forward with a wounded Trump, we will probably see many Republican congressional incumbents and candidates further distancing themselves from the party nominee if the campaign spins out of control.

The argument that voters will not want to invest complete power in the widely disliked Hillary Clinton, meaning that a vote for a Republican Senate and House candidate would provide a check on her unbridled power, is a line of reasoning that will likely come to the forefront. There is a chance such a ploy could be effective, since polling in an average number of races find the GOP House member, in particular, running significantly ahead of Trump.

It has been said that the final determining electoral factors may not yet have occurred, but the first of the unseen happenings may have just come into public view.

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