On paper, the race for the Republican presidential nomination has been over for quite a while. Donald Trump’s remaining rivals quit in early May and he’s locked up more than enough bound delegates to win on the first ballot. There is no meaningful doubt as to who the GOP nominee will be.
And yet, chatter of a convention coup isn’t going away.
Dozens of Republican convention delegates are hatching a new plan to block Donald Trump at this summer’s party meetings, in what has become the most organized effort so far to stop the businessman from becoming the GOP presidential nominee. […]Given the strife, a growing group of anti-Trump delegates is convinced that enough like-minded Republicans will band together in the next month to change party rules and allow delegates to vote for whomever they want at the convention, regardless of who won state caucuses or primaries.
There’s no shortage of reasons for skepticism, not the least of which is the arithmetic: the Washington Post’s report said “at least 30 delegates” are involved in the effort. There are 2,472 delegates headed to the Republican National Convention. “At least 30” is a start, but it’s safe to say the odds are not in the renegades’ favor.
But before anyone laughs this off as a meaningless distraction, note the degree to which the coup’s ringleaders have gotten Trump’s attention.
Donald Trump on Saturday called efforts by a group of Republican convention delegates to prevent him from officially clinching the nomination “illegal” and “a hoax.”Mr. Trump, speaking at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, devoted a hefty portion of his opening remarks to criticizing efforts to dislodge him. “First of all it’s illegal. Second of all, you can’t do it,” he said. “You have a couple of guys that were badly defeated, and they’re trying to organize maybe like a little bit of a delegate revolt.”
Trump is devoting quite a bit of energy to denouncing this “little” possibility. He’s accused Jeb Bush of being involved in the plot against him; he’s publicly mocking the GOP “insurgents” who failed to derail him during the primary process; and he’s insisting that the entire effort is “a hoax,” that’s “all made up by the press.”
Note, some of these complaints are contradictory. The anti-Trump campaign can’t be a real thing, orchestrated by the candidate’s Republican detractors, and a made-up thing, imagined by the media. It can be one or the other, but not both.
Just to reiterate a point from a couple of weeks ago, I’m reasonably sure there will be no convention coup. It’s a fun political thought experiment to kick around, but anyone expecting Trump to face such an organized convention revolt is very likely to be disappointed.
Indeed, the possibility of a Republican civil war four months before Election Day may be the only scenario worse for the GOP than a Trump-led ticket.
The possibility of a coup might be slightly less ridiculous if there were a plausible candidate waiting in the wings, ready to rally support from the GOP’s various factions, and eager to pick up the pieces after a convention coup tears the party apart – but no such candidate exists. Trump’s critics couldn’t figure out how to slow him down over the last 12 months, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll organize a credible convention challenge over the next month.
But given how much Trump is talking about the possibility, the mere threat of a revolt appears to have rattled the presumptive GOP nominee in ways that make him look surprisingly nervous.