Henry Barbour, a Rules Committee member from Mississippi, stressed there is nothing exceptional, let alone unfair, about following the party’s procedure for a primary that ends without a candidate clinching the nomination.
“The rules are plain: You have to get a majority of the delegates,” he said, noting that if no candidate wins them before the convention, “we have a process in place and the delegates vote.”
This those-are-the-rules-I-didn’t-make-them approach isn’t just disingenuous, it’s blatantly false. The rules committee meets as the convention commences to determine what the rules of that convention are going to be. The rules were rewritten in 2012 to keep Ron Paul off the ballot and they will almost certainly have to be revised again this year to get anyone other than Trump and Cruz on the ballot this time around. Rule 40, from the 2012 iteration of convention procedures, reads:
Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight (8) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination [my emphasis]. Notwithstanding any other provisions of these rules or any rule of the House of Representatives, to demonstrate the support required of this paragraph a certificate evidencing the affirmative written support of the required number of permanently seated delegates from each of the eight (8) or more states shall have been submitted to the secretary of the convention not later than one (1) hour prior to the placing of the names of candidates for nomination pursuant to this rule and the established order of business.
Unless Kasich manages to get a majority of delegates in seven of the seventeen remaining states, which is exceedingly unlikely even if Cruz drops out, he won’t be on the delegate ballot, nor will any of the other candidates who’ve already dropped out previously. The only two names will be Trump and Cruz.
In this two-man scenario, where Trump leads Cruz in both pledged delegates and primary/caucus votes received, the fallout from choosing Cruz in the second round, when delegates pledged to other candidates are free to vote for whoever they want to, would be enormous. Protestations about a “compromise candidate” wouldn’t even enjoy the veneer of legitimacy. The party would simply be passing over the winner to hand the nomination to the runner up. It’d be the most blatant, indefensible snubbing imaginable, and Trump would be justified in bringing the whole corrupt temple crumbling to the ground in response.
To pull off the “compromise candidate”–someone other than Trump or Cruz–shenanigans, the rules would have to be changed prior to the vote to lower the requirements for inclusion on the delegate ballot. They’d have to be altered substantially to allow those who haven’t even campaigned but whose names have been thrown around, like Romney or Paul Ryan, to serve as potential step-ins.
But if the rules are changed to allow for that, there’s no compelling reason why they shouldn’t be changed in other ways to protect outcomes that adequately address the intentions of primary and caucus electorates, say by compelling, in the case of no one receiving a majority of the pledged delegates, the presidential candidate with the most pledged delegates to be named the presidential nominee and the presidential candidate with the second most pledged delegates to be named the vice presidential nominee (alas, the the last embers are finally about to extinguish).
In other words, this whole “our hands are tied” explanation is complete and utter bullshit. The party can rewrite the rules however it wants to. At present none of these procedures are set in stone.
If Trump goes in with the most delegates and the most votes but gets cut out of the nomination, it will be because the GOPe decided to make it so on the first day of the convention. That’s when the rules committee decides what the procedures for selecting the nominee are going to be. If that happens, I will certainly vote straight Democrat at the congressional and presidential levels in November and will be vociferously urging everyone in my networks to do the same.