Convention rules committee members open to passing anti-Trump measure
Four new members of the GOP convention rules committee are in favor of scrappijng a rule that requires the GOP nominee to receive a majority of votes in 8 primaries, thus potentially throwing open a brokered convention to candidates who never entered a single contest.
The rule was pushed through by Romney forces in 2012 to keep Ron Paul from speaking at the convention. Now, it may be repealed to stop Donald Trump from winning the nomination.
If Trump doesn’t effectively clinch the Republican nomination by the June 7 end of the primary season, the rules committee is destined to be the epicenter of political wrangling and horse-trading leading up to what would be the first contested convention since 1976.
Wheeler and the three other early appointees to the panel hail from Louisiana and South Dakota. Eventually, the committee will include a man and a woman from every state and U.S. territory — a total of 112 people. But interviews with the four members, as well as two veteran Republicans who hope to join the panel, provide an early window into the factors that could drive the committee’s decision-making.
Though the panel is imbued with virtually unchecked power to draft rules that tip the nomination away from Trump — or into his grasp — most of the panelists and prospective members indicated their actions would be guided by a different principle: caution.
“We don't want to give the impression that we are leaning one way or the other in support or trying to hold somebody else back,” said Sandye Kading, the other South Dakota delegate on the rules committee.
“Fundamentally, I hope we keep the way we’re doing it,” said Ross Little, Jr., a rules committee member from Louisiana. “I’m not looking for a gigantic change.”
But all four said they were open to changes to the eight-state threshold to be more inclusive. It was adopted in a year when Romney was already the presumptive nominee and meant to prevent uncomfortable optics of forcing him to share the stage with Paul, beloved of the libertarian grassroots.
“They ambushed us,” said Gwen Bowen, the other Louisiana rules committee appointee, referring to the Romney backers who imposed the rule in 2012. Bowen, a devout Cruz supporter, will be on the panel for her fourth straight convention. She said she’s against the eight-state rule, but hasn’t decided what, if anything, should take its place. Bowen emphasized that she hasn’t coordinated any potential rule changes with the Cruz campaign.
Members of the rules panel are aware that any changes to the process that lower barriers for Trump’s competitors — even adjustments to the eight-state rule — could be seen as an affront to the frontrunner.
A change in the rule may have to get a floor vote - unless the convention chair pulls a fast one.This would not be unheard of, but Trump supporters are going to be incredibly sensitive to slights of this kind. Any move of this sort is likely to blow up the convention and have the GOP civil war play out in prime time on national television.
Most rules changes are non-controversial. They will probably be voted on separately. The two or three rules changes that might draw the ire of Trump supporters face an uncertain future. They are unlikely to receive separate votes, which maximizes the odds that they will pass with majority support as a package.
It's not likely that any candidates who failed to enter a single primary will be considered. But any candidate who won as few as one delegate will probably be eligible for nomination. That lets candidates like Rubio and Jeb Bush back into the picture as possible compromise candidates in a brokered convention.