The Washington Post reported last week that longtime Republican “power brokers” recently had a spirited chat about the possibility of a contested national convention in July. These party insiders have begun to see a convention floor fight as “a real possibility,” and they’re urging party officials to begin “laying the groundwork” now for an effort to derail Donald Trump in the summer.
There are a few problems with all of this – not the least of which is that it’s very premature – including the inconvenient fact that it lends credence to a specific narrative Republican officials prefer to deny: party insiders are prepared to go to war to block an inexperienced party outsider from becoming their presidential nominee.
Trump supporters, not surprisingly, weren’t pleased with the chatter, but neither was Ben Carson, who told reporters Friday that the discussion about a contested convention is the sort of thing that can “destroy the party.”
“If this was the beginning of a plan to subvert the will of the voters and replace it with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party,” the retired neurosurgeon said. “I pray that the report in the Post this morning was incorrect. If it is correct, every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won’t stand for it.”
On ABC yesterday, “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos asked Carson, “Are you prepared to make good on that threat?” The GOP candidate replied:
“Well, one of the reasons that I got into this is because I heard the frustration in the people who are so tired of back room deals, of subterfuge, of dishonesty. And, you know, if that is the case then you know I’m out of here.“Now I have subsequently spoken to [RNC Chairman] Reince Priebus. He told me those are routine meetings. They have them all the time. This was no different than any of the others, that the last thing that they would do is engage in back-room dealing.“But, you know, the jury is out. We’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on things.”
This probably would have carried a greater punch in, say, October, when Carson looked like a possible nominee.
Look, when Donald Trump talks about abandoning the Republicans’ nominating process and running as an independent, it terrifies party officials for reason: Trump has significant resources and a sizable following, filled with folks who have already said they’ll back the New York developer regardless of his party affiliation.
Carson’s threats may be sincere, but they’re far less scary to the party. His poll numbers are sinking and he’s no longer seen as a credible contender; he has no credible avenue to a third-party bid; and even if he leaves the GOP to register as an independent – a scenario he said was a possibility during a Fox News interview late Friday – it’s hard to see how this would affect the race in any tangible way.
These threats, in other words, come across a bit like a struggling candidate looking for attention.
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