Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a Donald Trump ally, said yesterday his party’s presumptive presidential nominee has “two to three weeks” to fix his campaign. What Corker did not say is what happens in two to three weeks if Trump is still, well, Trump.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who remains part of a small “Never Trump” contingent within the GOP, went just a little further in an interview with the Associated Press.
Said Flake: “Let’s face it: meet the old Trump, just like the new Trump. We’ve got what we’ve got. That’s not somebody who can win the White House.”He added: “Where there’s no talk of a convention challenge or anything else, this might spur it.”
Hugh Hewitt, a prominent voice in Republican media, said on his radio show this morning that the party “ought to change the nominee.” Bob Vander Plaats, an Iowa-based leader for social conservatives, told NBC News, in reference to a possible convention coup, “Everything’s got to be on the table.”
Following up on a report from Rachel’s election-night coverage, let’s take a minute to unwrap the highly provocative idea these folks are kicking around publicly.
As things stand, there’s no ambiguity: Donald Trump is the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee. Not only does he have no rivals, but he’s also locked up the necessary number of delegates. He doesn’t need unbound delegates to prevail at the convention – Trump already has enough bound delegates to win easily on the first ballot.
In other words, the Republican race is over. Trump won. He’s going to be the nominee.
As for why that “almost” qualifier sneaks into the conversation, there are some very far-fetched scenarios that could, in theory, play out. Trump could, for example, decide he’s no longer having any fun and quit. Odds are, given his ego, this isn’t going to happen.
Trump could also have some kind of health or family crisis that forces him off the campaign trail. This, too, seems highly unlikely and has no modern precedent in national politics.
And then there’s the aforementioned possibility of a convention coup, which will almost certainly not happen, but which is theoretically possible. Bloomberg View’s Jonathan Bernstein highlighted the fanciful thought experiment yesterday:
…All it would take to dump him in Cleveland would be a vote to free the delegates, followed by having at least half of the convention oppose him on the first ballot.Technically, they wouldn’t even have to have an alternate candidate. Trump dissenters could vote for various other candidates – or Mickey Mouse, for that matter – as long as a total of 1,237 of them don’t vote for Trump.
New York magazine’s Ed Kilgore, who described this as “a nuclear option,” added, “Approximately one-third of the delegations to the Republican National Convention will be bound to primary or caucus winners by state election laws. For the rest of them, however, the ‘binding’ is by national party rules, and ultimately the rules of every Republican convention are made and can be unmade by the convention itself. So, in theory, convention delegates could vote to unbind themselves (or at least those not bound by state election laws) before the first presidential ballot and throw the nomination open again.”
Just so we’re clear: I’m not predicting this. In fact, I’m quite certain this has no realistic chance of happening. 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.
The possibility 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 the fact that this has even become part of the conversation is emblematic of just how badly Donald Trump is doing as the general-election phase gets underway.