LAS VEGAS – In 2016, a group of representatives made one last attempt to stop it Donald Trump From securing the Republican Party’s presidential nomination during the tumultuous proceedings in Congress.
Expect no such spectacle at this summer’s Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, party leaders say.
“It didn’t happen then and it won’t happen now,” Republican National Committeeman David Bossie of Maryland and a longtime Trump ally told NBC News at the party’s winter meeting here this week. “There is no one to try to do that. … None of those conversations are happening here. There is not a single bit of that.”
Republican Party officials, including some Trump critics, said this after Trump’s victory Iowa and New Hampshire, the potential for a shakeup at the convention is almost non-existent after his allies have spent years solidifying RNC rules and processes. In other words, someone like former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley — the remaining GOP candidate challenging Trump for the nomination — won’t have much luck hoping to fight at the convention.
RNC convention member Morton Blackwell said, “The rules could be changed, but it probably wouldn’t be fair — and I don’t think it would pass — without a cement truck coming around the corner and killing the candidate” on the Rules Committee since 1988.
“There’s a lot of smoke around that there’s no reality to it,” said Blackwell, who, even as he was in the midst of a criminal trial during the July convention, opposed the possibility of a convention coup to prop up Trump.
In 2016, leaders of the anti-Trump congressional effort helped push for a last-ditch effort to allow delegates to be freed from backing a particular candidate and instead boost Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, then Trump’s top job. challenger – and give him the necessary delegates to become the Republican nominee.
Kendall Unruh, a former RNC member from Colorado and leader of the Free the Delegates effort at the 2016 convention, has since left the GOP.
“The people I ran with in 2016 — those people are now fully on board with Trump,” he said in an interview this week. “It has a lock [the nomination].”
“I’m at a loss,” Unruh said today when asked if there was an RNC member she might consider participating in an effort to nominate Trump at the 2024 convention.
“I know these people,” he said, citing Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Harriet Hageman of Wyoming, who were vocal allies in rejecting Trump’s nomination in 2016. They are now Trump’s main defenders.
Ken Cuccinelli, who most recently served as the founder and director of the Ron DeSantis-allied super PAC Never Back Down, managed delegate operations efforts for Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign and at the time sought changes to party rules that would affect the future. GOP presidential primary.
“It is virtually impossible to impeach Trump as a candidate,” Cuccinelli said in a text message. “Campaigns will self-select delegates in more states in 2024 than they did in 2016.”
This year, the Trump campaign has paid more attention to ensuring that the actual delegates it sends to Milwaukee are loyal to Trump, and toned down concerns about potentially rogue delegates on the convention floor.
“Michigan delegates will be very strongly pro-Trump; we have a new pool of delegates,” said Robert Steele, Michigan’s RNC committeeman.
“There’s going to be a lot of people running for those delegates,” he added, noting that pro-Trump party activists will choose pro-Trump activists as the de facto delegates to represent the state at the convention.
But there is still the possibility that Trump will be impeached during the July convention — which could lead some party officials to think that a candidate without legal problems might be a better bet for the general election.
Arizona RNC committeewoman Lori Klein Corbin dismissed a series of lawsuits pending against Trump as a “political witch hunt.”
In 2016, “they wanted to change the rules so that you are not limited – I do not hear anything like that,” he said. “I think whoever the likely candidate is – that won’t be a problem.”
Henry Barbour, a longtime RNC member from Mississippi who also served on the rules committee in 2016, puts the chance of convention delegates switching candidates in Milwaukee at “less than 1%.”
But he noted that the party’s convention rules provide a small opening for delegates to formally select someone other than the presumptive nominee.
“The reality is, if two-thirds of the delegates are on the floor at the convention, you can do whatever you want,” Barbour said. “But representatives clearly have to want that change.”
“There’s no way, whoever wins the required delegates — whether it’s Trump or Haley — the delegates are going to work against that person, especially if Trump wins with a large majority,” he said.
RNC rules currently require more than 94% of the 2,429 convention delegates to vote for their state’s nominee “for at least one round of voting.”
Another party rule that can exclude delegates: Rule 16(f)(4). It said the RNC’s 168-member body could issue a “waiver” that allows state Republican parties to lock their delegates if “a match is impossible and the Republican National Committee determines that such a waiver is in the best interests of the Republican Party.” The definition of “impossible.” remains with some uncertainty — even if Trump is convicted, it won’t make it “impossible” for him to run.
One RNC member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disputed the suggestion that Haley could be a viable alternative to Trump, even if she wins a significant number of delegates. Through Iowa and New Hampshire, it secured 30% of the available delegates.
“Just because he stays doesn’t automatically make him one,” the RNC member said, adding that DeSantis would be a more attractive choice in the event of “some crazy assumption that I don’t agree with.”
“Ron DeSantis, who has been a successful governor and, you know, second in Iowa and then has the class to get out, is someone that people will immediately turn to,” the RNC member said.
Then the person paused and concluded: “It’s never going to happen – it’s not a scenario.”