Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, speaks at the American Conservative Union's CPAC conference at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., March 4, 2016. 
Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP

Republican National Committee on defense over contested convention

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus downplayed the possibility of a contested convention just as party elders are encouraging it as a way of derailing front-runner Donald Trump.

“A lot of this is early talk. Just so you understand, there are 1,237 delegates needed to be the nominee of our party. There are 1,744 delegates left to be distributed – we are a long way to go,” Priebus said at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday morning. “There’s no way that the people are not going to decide, there’s no way that the delegates are not going to decide.”

RELATED: Delegate math: Here’s how a contested convention could happen

But the possibility of a contested convention has becoming increasingly possible – even anticipated and encouraged – as party elders like Gov. Mitt Romney balk at the prospect of nominating Donald Trump and supporters of candidates like Marco Rubio hope for the possibility as a last-ditch effort at winning.

Moderator Sean Hannity, who was extremely critical of Romney’s approach, pushed Priebus on whether voters would feel cheated if Trump lost in a contested convention despite winning the most delegates. Priebus put the odds of even reaching a contested convention at just 10 to 15 percent.

RELATED: Romney: I’ll do everything within ‘political bounds’ to fight Trump

Priebus – who got a frosty response at the conservative convention, where he faced questions about the voter distrust of the GOP establishment that’s been credited for fueling Trump’s rise  – sought to defend his role at the RNC as one that builds a grassroots operation to boost whomever the nominee is.

“Everyone’s talking about Ohio and Florida, right? But between now and that day, there’s actually 14.5 percent of all the delegates are yet to be distributed,” he said. “I would just say what I’ve always said: I think the odds of a contested convention are very small.”

Donald Trump, Reince Priebus and RNC

Republican National Committee on defense over contested convention