Trump could lose 50 first ballot South Carolina delegate votes over going back on his loyalty pledge
Those pesky rules that Donald Trump rails against could end up costing him 50 crucial first ballot delegate votes at the GOP Convention, now that he has announced he won’t be bound by his loyalty pledge to support the nominee. Getting to 1,237 votes would be all the more difficult, unless he reverses his reversal. Zeke J. Miller reports at Time.com:
The Palmetto State was one of several that required candidates to pledge their loyalty to the party’s eventual nominee in order to secure a slot on the primary ballot. Though Trump won all of the state’s delegates in the Feb. 20 primary, anti-Trump forces are plotting to contest their binding to Trump because of his threat on the pledge Tuesday.
The loyalty pledge is nothing new in South Carolina, where it has been required for decades (snip)
Trump has been hiring staff to ensure he hangs on to delegates in what could be a messy convention fight, but the latest threat appears to be an unforced error on his part.
South Carolina Republican Party chairman Matt Moore gives credence to the anti-Trump claims.
“Breaking South Carolina’s presidential-primary-ballot pledge raises some unanswered legal questions that no one person can answer,” he tells TIME. “However, a court or national convention Committee on Contests could resolve them. It could put delegates in jeopardy.”
At a minimum, there could be a very messy fight over binding the delegates on the first ballot. If the fight goes to the Committee on Contests at the convention, it would be subject to a ratification vote of the convention itself. And in the selection of the actual membership of the delegate slates, Trump starts from well behind Cruz and Kasich. In South Carolina, as in many other states, delegates are selected from among people who already have been active in party politics for some time:
South Carolina has yet to select delegates to the convention, and it is a state where Trump may already be on the defensive with delegates. South Carolina delegates to the national convention must have been delegates or alternates to the state’s 2015 GOP convention, a requirement that benefits candidates who appeal to the establishment.
Those delegates would be bound to Trump on the first ballot according to state and Republican National Committee (RNC) rules. The challenge, which could only be filed once delegates are selected, would seek to allow them to be free agents on the first ballot, thereby keeping Trump further from the key 1,237 figure he needs to secure the nomination. Similar challenges could also be filed in other states that added loyalty pledges.
If he loses this and other delegate selection fights, ending up with delegates who vote against him despite having won the S.C. primary, Trump could very well rail against the rules that favor party insiders. But the rules have been there for years. This is one reason why caution should be used in changing the rules this year, as some people advocate.