CLEVELAND, Ohio—Republican National Committee delegates determined to stop Donald Trump at the GOP Convention next week are in the final planning stages of their mission.
Several groups are fine-tuning various convention floor strategies that would allow delegates to vote their conscience on the first round of balloting, rather than being required to vote for the candidate who won their state contest.
Composed of various alliances who talk to one another on conference calls, email lists and text messages virtually every day, groups like Save Our Party, Delegates Unbound and Free the Delegates find themselves in the final home stretch this week as key RNC delegate committee meetings (platform, rules, credentials) convene before the GOP picks its nominee at the convention.
Dane Waters, co-founder and adviser to Delegates Unbound, announced Sunday night that one Arizona delegate has already declared independence from her state party chairman.
Trump won all 58 bound delegates in the Arizona primary with 47 percent of the vote on March 22 against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. However, Cruz walked away with 40 of the 58 delegates supporting him during the Arizona GOP convention, so Trump’s support would remain mandated by all Arizona delegates on the first ballot only.
Arizona GOP delegate Lori Hack stated in a press release that she informed her chairman of her plans to defy his requirement that delegates from the state vote for Trump on the first ballot.
“Duly elected delegates have an obligation to vote their conscience, free of fear and threats,” stated Hack. “Chairman Robert Graham is undermining that obligation by withholding credentials from delegates who fail to pledge loyalty to Donald Trump.”
Despite pronouncements of the death of the “Never Trump” movement from the media and Trump supporters, Waters tells The Daily Caller that “hundreds” of delegates are interested and organizing to try and stop Trump from securing the GOP nomination.
“I think it’s absolutely untrue [that Never Trump is dead]. This is their way of showing that they are concerned about what’s going on. If they truly felt it was an effort that had no (real support) they would ignore it completely,” said Waters, who is opening up an office in Cleveland for Delegates Unbound on Monday. “They wouldn’t even talk about it,” he added.
Virginia GOP delegate, Carroll “Beau” Correll Jr., a lawyer from Northern Virginia, went to court to challenge the mandate of voting for Trump on the first ballot.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Payne of Virginia is expected to give his opinion next week on the challenge to a state law that requires delegates to vote for Trump on the first ballot, The Washington Post reported. Trump won about 35 percent of the vote in the state’s March 1 primary.
The Post notes that even if Payne rules in Correll’s favor and tosses out the state law binding delegates on the first ballot to the winner of the primary, the GOP nomination rules will still be in the RNC’s jurisdiction to decide at the convention.
“Trump intervened into the Virginia lawsuit that’s going on,” Waters told TheDC, adding that state party chairs are also trying to stop delegates from getting their floor credentials.
“I mean all of this shows that there is serious concern about how strong this movement is,” he said.
What about numbers?
Georgia Republican rules committee member Randy Evans told The Atlanta Journal Constitution that the Rules Committee would only need 28 members to force a vote on a minority report from the committee to allow delegates to vote how they want to vote on the first ballot.
One source tells TheDC that 30 members of the rules committee are already committed to supporting a minority report, but this can change at any time.
A wide scale floor battle would ensue, though, if a minority report made it to the floor.
Evans believes that Trump has 900 solid supporters at the convention, while Cruz has 700. The remaining 800 or so are still undecided and are being whipped by Trump supporters and Never Trumpers alike, Evans claims.
“There’s a full-blown whip operation” to tally votes, Evans said.
Waters sees the numbers a little differently, telling TheDC, “Those numbers, honestly, speak for themselves. I don’t get into numbers for a couple of reasons. Number one you don’t expose the size of your army before you go into battle. Number two is, a lot of the press want us to disclose the names of the individuals.”
He added, “We don’t do that because of the constant intimidation of anybody who speaks ill of this issue of Trump. But I can say I firmly believe that there are enough delegates supporting this effort to deny Donald Trump the nomination.”
Additionally, much like rules committee member Curly Haugland, Waters believes the Republican delegates are already free to vote how they want to on the first ballot—not bound by their state party’s primary contest results.
“We do not believe there needs to be any rules change for delegates to vote their conscience. Unless the rules committee specifically binds the delegates, as the convention had done in 1976, the delegates can vote their conscience.
However, even if the Never Trump movement succeeds in ousting Trump, a brand new nominee would be starting from the ground up in terms of infrastructure and fundraising compared to presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who has already raised over $300 million.
“This is an idiotic and close-minded approach for these people to take,” said Georgia delegate GOP William Carter to the AJC. “Why? It’s simple, they are willing to have Trump not be the Republican nominee and run as a third-party candidate, which he almost certainly would do if this were to be successful.”
One fervent supporter of the Never Trump movement warns that if House Speaker Paul Ryan, who will chair the convention, decides to gavel out any opposition to Trump, their whole movement will likely collapse.
Long time Virginia Committeeman and rules committee member Morton Blackwell told TheDC that any attempt to push Trump away from the nomination and start a floor battle will just “tear the party apart.”
“Well I think there is nothing that we can do to tear the party apart more than Donald Trump has already done. You look at the fact that he has already alienated the people the RNC and the Republican Party has spent a generation working the relationships with–Women and minorities,” the Never Trump supporter said. “I can honestly say that Donald Trump is going to tear apart the coalition–individuals in the party have worked very hard to bring into the fold.” He added, “So I disagree with Morton. I have tremendous respect for him, but I fundamentally disagree with him.”