Donald Trump is still the unofficial Republican presidential nominee. It’s not official until the party’s convention in Cleveland. Ines Pohl looks at the chances he’s stopped by the GOP establishment.
Technically, nothing stands in the way of Donald Trump being nominated as the Republican Party candidate for the presidency of the United States. Technically. So many people voted for the party-changing real estate mogul in the GOP primaries that he won enough delegates to become the party’s nominee. And technically, delegates are obliged to uphold those primary results. And yet, the party could still make a last-minute rule change and nominate another candidate for the White House. Here’s how it could happen:
1. According to Republican Party rules, a committee of 112 participants convenes prior to the party convention. The group consists of one man and one woman from each state in the union, the District of Columbia, and five US territories. These committee members determine which rules will be used to officially nominate a candidate. If the majority of the committee decides to relieve delegates of their obligation to vote according to primary results, and thus “vote their conscience,” then anything is possible. There is no higher authority that can override this decision.
2. If the committee can’t reach a majority decision but 25 percent of committee members decide that delegates are not “bound” by primary results, the decision will be taken to the convention floor. At that point, the 2,472 delegates in attendance discuss and determine whether they will hold an “open convention.” That would guarantee that the convention would become a free-for-all.
3. That all sounds easier than it is. Because each state has its own voting rules for its delegates. That means that some delegates are still obliged to vote for Trump even if the party gives them a choice. Others are only bound to vote according to primary results in the first round of the nomination vote, thereafter they may vote as they like. And in a democratic-theoretical sense, rather dubious: Most Americans don’t even understand the process.
4. According to current party rules, about 95 percent of delegates are obliged to vote for the candidate who won their election precinct in the primary. At the same time, it should be noted that delegates are appointed in a rather opaque process, and that they are very often members of the party establishment. And that establishment is having a very hard time accepting Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s candidate.
The two biggest questions will be: Is there a promising alternative? And will officials be willing to risk an open rebellion within their own party in order to block Trump’s nomination? Those who voted for Trump would naturally feel as if they had been taken for a ride if, after months of campaigning for one candidate in the primaries, the party suddenly chooses someone else.
But there will be plenty of other questions facing the 2,472 delegates who will gather at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland from July 18-21. The spectrum of political views within such a large group is naturally enormous. It runs the gamut from convinced anti-Trump delegates to staunch Trump supporters, and everything in between. Many of the delegates are also ambitious young political hopefuls themselves – could their future career considerations influence them? Are they willing to accept responsibility for casting such a risky vote against the will of a clear majority of primary voters? Or will they vote against Trump, regardless of the personal disadvantages, simply because in their eyes Trump hurts the party?
Many observers are looking toward the party conference wondering how and when the Republican nightmare might end: Will Trump be ultimately denied the nomination? Or could his nomination damage the Republicans so badly that it leads to the party’s downfall?
Shortly before the convention only one thing is certain: Anything’s possible.