The relationship between Donald Trump and the Republican establishment remains tense even after the candidate emerged as the party’s presumptive nominee for November’s presidential election.
Paul Ryan, the highest-ranking Republican in Congress, said on Sunday night that he won’t ask party leaders to “do something that’s contrary to their conscience” in choosing the nominee, indicating that he won’t stop a potential revolt against Mr. Trump at the party convention in Cleveland on July 18-21. His remarks came close on the heels of a Washington Post report that “dozens” of Republican delegates launched a new push to halt Mr. Trump becoming the party nominee.
With just weeks to go for the convention, the chances of such a bid succeeding are very slim. Mr. Trump has already won the number of pledged delegates from the primaries needed to clinch nomination. Now the only way to deny him the ticket is to change the party rules that will free the pledged delegates up from their commitments. That may seem undemocratic, but in theory, the 112-member Rules Committee, which determines the guidelines of the convention, has the power to do so.
But changing the rules is not easy. First, the anti-Trump faction needs the support of a majority of the Rules Committee members for their proposal. Then the new rules should get the approval of most of the 2,472 delegates at the convention. (Of these, 1,542 are Mr. Trump’s pledged delegates). Therefore, unless there’s a huge chunk of the delegates who were sent to the Convention by Trump voters turn against their own candidate, bids to change the rules will fall flat.
Even if the party establishment manages to push changes through the convention and deny the ticket to Mr. Trump, it’s unlikely to improve the party’s electoral prospects. Mr. Trump is the most popular candidate among the Republican voters. Most of his proposals, including the one to ban Muslims, have the support of most Republicans.
Also, the recent examples show that the anti-Trump factions within the Republican Party never gained momentum. They first pinned hopes on a contested convention where they could push a pro-establishment candidate if a nominee wasn’t chosen on the first ballot. Such hopes were shattered as Mr. Trump kept winning more delegates than his rivals. Neither the rich political action committees (PAC) dedicated to stop Mr. Trump nor the ‘Never Trump’ campaign could blunt his momentum. Then there was a deal between John Kasich and Ted Cruz to split up their votes, but even that bid failed to slow down Mr. Trump’s march.
Despite all these efforts, Mr. Trump has won almost 14 million Republican votes. That an anti-establishment candidate secured this many votes itself points to the widespread resentment among ordinary Republicans towards the party leadership. If they go about changing the rules to stop Mr. Trump’s nomination, that would further alienate the voters, seriously damaging the party’s chances in the presidential and congressional elections. From a realistic point of view, the Republicans are unlikely to take such a huge risk. This means that the only person who can now stop Mr. Trump becoming the President is Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.