Thursday, Donald Trump just happened to stop by RNC headquarters in Washington, D.C. You know, he was on his way somewhere and just wanted to stop in and say “hi” to Chairman Reince Preibus. But that’s very unlikely.
During Tuesday night’s CNN town hall, Trump abandoned his pledge to support the nominee. Cruz flirted with the idea, but (barely) clung to his commitment. Kasich doesn’t matter.
But the words Trump uttered have consequences. For instance, South Carolina requires all primary candidates to sign (and keep) a loyalty pledge. If Trump doesn’t keep it, there are consequences. Writing in RedState, Jay Caruso quoted TIME, with added emphasis on the relevant part.
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 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.
In other words, Trump could lose pledged delegates. He could throw the entire convention into chaos. Maybe he intends to, maybe he doesn’t (you never know with Trump what’s invented on the spot and what’s noodling in his brain for a while).
So Trump has a “nice meeting” with Preibus.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 31, 2016
Leon Wolf kicked the can around with Dana Loesch on what might have been said. Leon said Trump called the meeting and the GOP used the opportunity to “explain the delegate process to Trump.” That could have happened, but it doesn’t take the RNC Chairman to explain it in person to the front runner, does it?
It could have been a show meeting to do a bit of damage control after Tuesday’s pledge drop. It could have been Trump telling Preibus to get the state parties under control for the convention. Or it could have been Preibus letting Trump know that delegates are people, not votebots.
Preibus knows the nomination process, and he understands that the GOP is made up of living, breathing people, and that delegates are not a mere formality like state electors in the general election. Delegates have their own candidate preferences, and the “binding” rules can be challenged.
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.”
In most states, delegates assigned to the national convention Committee on Contests are not going to be friendly to Trump. Cruz, Kasich, Rubio and the others who were in the race are savvy about their delegate operations. Trump is not. His only understanding is pure populism. “I get more votes than the others at the polls and I should have the nomination.”
But a mere plurality is not (and has never been) how the GOP party nominee is selected.
Trump’s attack vector will be that Cruz also abrogated the pledge.
Trump said he has “been treated very unfairly” by the Republican National Committee and party establishment figures. The billionaire front-runner accused rival Cruz of “essentially saying the same thing” in response to a question about the pledge.
Earlier, Cruz had told Cooper when asked the same question: “I’m not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and my family … I think nominating Donald Trump would be an absolute trainwreck, I think it would hand the general election to Hillary Clinton.”
But Cruz didn’t say he would not support Trump. He used lawyer-speak to skirt around it, but didn’t say he wouldn’t support the nominee. Not being “in the habit” is not the same as what Trump said, “No, I don’t anymore.”
This is the difference between Cruz, who thinks about what he says and how it will be received, and Trump, whose mouth is hardwired to his endocrine system, bypassing his brain entirely.
Donald dropped in to see Preibus, and had it all explained to him, that if he wants to unite the party, he has to stop publicly attacking it and saying how unfairly he’s been treated. For the umpteenth time Preibus explained that. Trump likely (very nicely) explained how that’s his campaign–how it’s run–to be the outsider and it’s necessary. It might be good for Donald, but it’s not good for the party.
No matter what Preibus (who is a very respectful, genteel and soft-spoken guy by all reports) says, Trump will be Trump. There’s really no calling him on the carpet for anything. The only words he understands is how he treats people on The Apprentice: “You’re fired.”