Dump-Trump ru­mors resur­face as Rom­ney con­sorts tapped to lead RNC nom­i­nat­ing rules com­mit­tee

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HALLOW

The specter of Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion be­ing ripped from un­der him in a nas­tily con­tested Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion next month is alive — again.

Anti-Trump forces ap­peared to have been de­feated af­ter he ousted his re­main­ing op­po­nents from the race in early May and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Reince Priebus all sig­naled that Mr. Trump had sewn things up.

But weeks of bad press stem­ming from Mr. Trump’s crit­i­cism of a fed­eral judge and un­even han­dling in the af­ter­math of the Or­lando, Florida, ter­ror­ist shoot­ing have kick-started ef­forts to deny Mr. Trump the nom­i­na­tion on the con­ven­tion floor.

The dump-Trump forces may have re­ceived another open­ing when Mr. Priebus tapped Utah RNC mem­ber Enid Greene Mick­elsen and Mas­sachusetts RNC mem­ber Ron Kauf­man as Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion Rules Com­mit­tee chair­woman and co-chair­man, re­spec­tively.

Ms. Mick­elsen and Mr. Kauf­man are po­lit­i­cal con­sorts of Mitt Rom­ney, the 2012 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, who has an­nounced he would not sup­port Mr. Trump and has worked to re­cruit a chal­lenger.

Ms. Mick­elsen, Mr. Kauf­man or both could ex­plic­itly or im­plic­itly en­cour­age del­e­gates com­mit­ted to vote for Mr. Trump to “vote their con­science” in­stead. If enough of them vote for any­one else, they could deny the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man the 1,237 votes req­ui­site for first-bal­lot vic­tory. It would be dif­fi­cult for Mr. Trump to re­cover from such a loss on sub­se­quent bal­lots.

Some anti-Trumpers are hop­ing to go even fur­ther — to get the con­ven­tion to pass new rules free­ing “bound” del­e­gates from their com­mit­ments to vote for Mr. Trump on the first bal­lot. They held an or­ga­niz­ing call eariler this month to talk strat­egy and said there are plenty of al­ter­na­tives to Mr. Trump if del­e­gates aren’t bound to him.

“I want to re­mind peo­ple — this is very, very im­por­tant go­ing into the con­ven­tion — there are no rules right now,” Steve Lone­gan, the New Jer­sey state chair­man for Sen. Ted Cruz’s Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, told CNN.

Repub­li­can Party of­fi­cials brushed aside the ef­fort, say­ing the rules are set­tled.

“All of the dis­cus­sion about the RNC Rules Com­mit­tee act­ing to un­der­mine the pre­sump­tive nom­i­nee is silly,” RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said. “There is no or­ga­nized ef­fort, strat­egy or leader of this so-called move­ment. It is noth­ing more than a me­dia cre­ation and a se­ries of tweets.”

But ques­tions have been swirling since Mr. Priebus named two Rom­ney al­lies to the rules com­mit­tee.

In 2012, Ms. Mick­elsen sup­ported Rom­ney cam­paign le­gal coun­sel Ben Gins­berg’s move to al­low Mr. Rom­ney to re­move duly elected del­e­gates to the na­tional con­ven­tion and re­place them with Rom­ney sup­port­ers. The Mick­elsen-Gins­berg goal was to keep a Rom­ney nom­i­na­tion ri­val, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, from speak­ing at the con­ven­tion.

Af­ter Mr. Gins­berg and Ms. Mick­elsen got their way, con­ser­va­tive del­e­gates re­volted against the rules change and pe­ti­tioned for a “mi­nor­ity re­port” to be pre­sented to the full con­ven­tion. Ms. Michelsen led the move to kill the mi­nor­ity re­port.

Mr. Priebus did dis­cuss the rules com­mit­tee ap­point­ments with Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort and got ap­proval be­fore mak­ing them pub­lic. Why did Mr. Manafort ap­prove? One the­ory on the Trump side is that Mr. Priebus and Mr. Manafort agreed that it would help unite the party.

Another is that Mr. Manafort and Mr. Priebus think Ms. Mick­elsen and Mr. Kauf­man have be­nign in­ten­tions re­gard­ing Mr. Trump.

The #Nev­erTrump move­ment has not put forth a plau­si­ble al­ter­na­tive to the pre­sump­tive nom­i­nee.

With 13,844,863, Mr. Trump won more votes in the nom­i­na­tion con­test na­tion­wide than any other Repub­li­can in the his­tory of pres­i­den­tial pri­maries. Sec­ond place went to Mr. Cruz, who won about half of that with 7,786,279 votes.

Trump sup­port­ers find it hard to be­lieve the #Nev­erTrump crowd would want to unite rene­gade and un­com­mit­ted del­e­gates be­hind the sec­ond-high­est vote-get­ter given that Mr. Cruz showed lit­tle prospect for win­ning a gen­eral elec­tion and is de­spised by most fel­low Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate.

Yet many Repub­li­can Party es­tab­lish­ment politi­cians and con­sul­tants fear their power and in­come would evap­o­rate if Mr. Trump wins the White House and shuns them or if he loses not only the pres­i­dency but also the party’s Se­nate con­trol and some House seats. Mr. Trump poses a lose-lose sit­u­a­tion for them.

Of­fen­sive, po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect, boast­ful and a showoff of his great wealth, Mr. Trump did ev­ery­thing wrong, ac­cord­ing to po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tants, on his way to win­ning a ma­jor­ity of com­mit­ted del­e­gates.

Mr. Manafort and his team are telling Mr. Trump he needs to change, be po­lite, re­served and pres­i­den­tial to win in Novem­ber — in other words, be like the ri­vals he beat. Oth­ers say his only hope of beat­ing Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton is to re­main the man who won the nom­i­na­tion.

So some Repub­li­cans at the high­est level are ask­ing one another pri­vately who is be­hind the Mick­elsenKauf­man ap­point­ments — hon­est bro­ker Paul Manafort or #Nev­erTrump col­lab­o­ra­tors.

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