Despite sneers from the Republican National Committee leadership, the number of players and the amount of activity associated with the #NeverTrump forces organizing a delegate revolt at the Republican convention suggest a fulsome effort is underway to dislodge Donald Trump.
As The Hill reports,
"A coalition of delegates, lawyers, rules experts and PACs has formed in what participants say is the most coordinated effort to date to dump Trump from the Republican ticket." Kendal Unruh, a Colorado delegate, is organizing at the Rules Committee, trying to drum up support to include a "conscience" clause allowing delegates to withhold votes for Trump on the first ballot. She is far from the only one:
Donald Trump sought to play up differences between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on Wednesday, June 29, 2016 claiming to know that Sanders secretly hates the former Secretary of State. (Reuters
"Colorado conservative activist Regina Thomson, who runs a PAC called Free the Delegates, is organizing a floor fight irrespective of the Rules Committee's decision ... Another group called Delegates Unbound, led by GOP strategist Dane Waters, is overseeing a national lobbying campaign focused on contacting delegates before they arrive in Cleveland to urge them to vote their conscience.
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"His group has raised $2.5 million and has already run a $150,000 spot on Fox News Channel. Waters said he will have a staff of 15 regional and state directors manning his national whip operation.
"Those three groups [Unruh, Thomson and Waters] are now strategizing together and sharing data. They claim to have secured enough money to launch a legal defense fund and invest in communications technologies that will keep them in contact with one another on the convention floor."
They will have a presence at the convention. ("They say they started bringing volunteers on as full-time employees this week and that they will have lawyers and convention experts on the ground in Cleveland. Thomson says 350 to 400 delegates and alternates have already inquired about how they can help. An organizing conference call on Sunday night hit maximum capacity of 2,000 participants.")
The RNC is placing faith in Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort (!) — who is supposed to be experienced in such matters. In fact, he has not had a substantial role in presidential campaigns for decades. Manafort, of course, has yet to organize competent fundraising, data collection and ground game operations so the RNC's reliance on him seems foolish. The RNC's arrogance and dismissive tone toward its own delegates only increase the latter's feistiness and determination. It is they who now are battling the party "establishment."
"Every day that passes where Trump isn't raising money, isn't able to match (Hillary) Clinton on TV and isn't making his long-promised pivot is another day for nervous delegates to continue to organize," says veteran GOP consultant Rick Wilson. "It's always been a game of long odds, but he keeps them alive, and his soft polling numbers continue to keep win in their sails."
The absence of a big name Republican — Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., or one of the 2016 contenders — is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the delegates lack a figure to pull the strands of the rebel effort together. There is no specific candidate for them to embrace as Trump's replacement. On the other hand, the rebels cannot be accused of being a stalking horse for any candidate, who would quickly be pummeled by pro-Trump flacks.
The big question remark is Mitt Romney. He's declined to run as a third candidate, positing such a figure would have little chance to beat the GOP nominee. But we are now past that point. This is about whether he would be the nominee if Trump gets booted. Sure enough, he's popped up to let it be known that his family still wants him to run. CNN reports, "Mitt Romney's family is still pleading for him to mount an independent bid for the presidency, the 2012 Republican nominee said Wednesday. Romney, speaking to CBS News' John Dickerson at the Aspen Ideas Festival, said a son asked him as recently as Tuesday to do so."
At the very least, Romney should publicly endorse the delegate effort and indicate he'd stand behind whomever the delegates support. That might get the ball rolling, and encourage others to do the same.
In any event, anyone who says definitively what will occur at the convention is engaged in wishful thinking. The Trump revolt has taken on a life of its own.
By Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.