But this year is not normal, with a leading contender who has won a minority of the popular vote in the primaries and who is ever-more-obviously unfit to be president. In these circumstances, the delegates have a right they have a duty, to act as delegates (not human rubber stamps) at a convention (not a coronation) with the obligation to decide on a nominee for a political party (not merely an assemblage of voters).
Most of the delegates to the 2016 Republican Convention know this. Many want to exercise their judgment. One concern that is holding some back is a sense that if Donald Trump falls short on the first ballot, there will be chaos—and that this could be even worse for the party than nominating Donald Trump.
I think the worry about chaos is overdone and that a series of ballots that would follow a failure by Trump to prevail on the first ballot would be exciting, invigorating, and likely to produce a strong consensus nominee. But there is a lot of (understandable) sentiment that you can't jump off one horse without another at the ready, that you shouldn't abandon one ship without another seaworthy vessel at hand.
So now is the time for one or more senior figures in the party to address that sentiment and to reassure delegates that they will not be marooned at sea. Now is the time for someone to announce that he or she will allow himself or herself to be put in nomination, so that the convention would have at least one recognized alternative to turn to if it wishes. Of course, the fact that someone now announces a willingness to serve doesn't mean he or she would ultimately win the nomination. But it does mean there would be at least one recognizable ship available for the delegates to board if they choose to.
Who should this Second (or Subsequent) Ballot Rescue Ship be? Some of the obvious candidates have removed themselves from consideration. Most of the 2016 candidates, like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Scott Walker have pretty much signed on to Team Trump. House speaker Paul Ryan has to preside at the convention, and so it would be inappropriate for him to step forward.
That leaves at least two obvious candidates, either of whose willingness to stand should reassure delegates willing to do the right thing but nervous about doing so. One is Mitt Romney, who because of his status as the most recent Republican nominee is an appropriate person to take on this responsibility. The other is the one 2016 finalist who hasn't capitulated to Trump, and who also, as it happens, offers very good prospects according to the polls of defeating Hillary Clinton for the presidency. That is Ohio governor John Kasich, who also has the advantage (and it would in the unusual circumstances of this kind of convention be an advantage) of long experience both in Congress and as a governor. One can also imagine others offering their services (Carly Fiorina, for example), and they are free and should be encouraged to do so—especially if Romney or Kasich don't step up.
But the easiest outcome would be for Romney and Kasich, who agree that Donald Trump should not be the nominee of their party, to take the next step. They need to have a conversation very soon and agree that one of them will announce this week that he is willing to compete for the nomination after the convention has disposed of Donald Trump. It's even conceivable both could announce their willingness to serve, and that they intend to let the delegates choose between them and anyone else who chooses to compete. All that Romney or Kasich has to say is this: "I am announcing today that I am willing to serve as the 2016 Republican nominee if the delegates wish to choose me for this responsibility and honor."
By William Kristol, The Weekly Standard