Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rule 40(b): The Rule That Came Back to Bite the GOP

Four years ago, when Rule 40(b) of the Republican Party’s convention rules required a qualified candidate for the Republican nomination for president to have demonstrated that he had a plurality of delegates from at least five primaries or caucuses, the old guard establishment changed this rule to require a majority in eight states. This more stringent rule was designed to prevent then Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) from demonstrating that he could meet the qualification under the old rule and challenge the coronation of former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) as the party’s nominee.

Four years later, Rule 40(b) has come back to bite the old guard because its stringent requirement has been met by businessman and first-time presidential candidate Donald Trump. He has managed to leap over that hurdle. As of March 30, 2016, no other candidate meets this qualification. Trump has won the majority of delegates in eleven contests (including the Northern Mariana Islands, which counts for purposes of Rule 40). Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has met the requirement in five contests and might meet the full eight-state requirement by July, but this is not certain. In any case, unless the rule is changed, Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) or anyone else, from former candidate and former Governor Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) to non-candidate Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will be ineligible to come in as a “dark horse” candidate and run away with the convention on a second or third ballot.

So far (as of March 30, 2016), these are the GOP Primaries or Caucuses where candidates have won a majority of delegates. Under a GOP convention rule (unless the rule is changed as the convention’s first order of business in July) a candidate must win a majority in at least eight states to be qualified.

Donald Trump: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Northern Mariana Islands (11).

Ted Cruz: Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Texas, Utah (5).

Rubio: District of Columbia, Puerto Rico (2).

John Kasich: Ohio (1).

If this situation remains the same, then even if Donald Trump does not meet the requirement under Rule 16 that he must have 1,237 delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot, he could still win on the second or third ballot because he would be the ONLY qualified candidate. No one else would be able to challenge him. This is why the GOP establishment will have to change the wording of Rule 40 or expunge Rule 40(b) entirely, in spite of the detriment of appearing to change the rules for purely self-serving reasons. Yet this change could be difficult to execute because Trump might be able to stack the Rules Committee with enough supporters to prevent the rule from being changed. Likewise, he might be able to quash any attempt to change the rule in a floor vote where delegates are asked to change the rule in an open process.

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