It’s Too Late To Stop Donald Trump At The Convention

Republican insiders are apparently still looking at ways to stop Donald Trump at a convention. It's far too late for that, guys.

2012 GOP Convention

Anti-Trump Republicans are once again talking about some way to deny him the nomination at the convention, but as with previous plots this one seems to be doomed to failure:

The faction of the GOP that is unhappy with Donald Trump as the party’s presumptive nominee has one last plan to stop the mogul: staging an all-out delegate revolt at the Republican National Convention.

The far-fetched idea is the latest reflection of a campaign cycle that has been anything but ordinary, and stems from a continuing dissatisfaction among some conservative stalwarts with how Trump is behaving and running his campaign. But two longtime GOP veterans says they wouldn’t bet on the effort working.

The effort comes at a rough time for the GOP. As the Democratic Party’s heaviest hitters, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, line up behind Hillary Clinton and against Trump, Republicans have been forced to criticize their own nominee. Recent comments from Trump about a federal judge’s Mexican heritage have drawn widespread rebuke and put GOP leaders in a corner as they defend their endorsement of Trump while disavowing his comments.

One of the vocal advocates for a delegate revolt is conservative commentator and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who has also been actively seeking a candidate to mount an independent bid against Trump, thus far to no avail.

Kristol tweeted late Thursday that the idea of a “conscience convention,” where delegates are free to vote for whomever they want to, is also appealing.

“I’ve been focused on independent candidacy, & still am. But struck by sudden level of interest in possible delegate revolt at convention,” Kristol tweeted. He added: “A Convention of Conscience in Cleveland would be quite something. Made easier by fact Trump only won minority of total primary votes anyway.”

He also linked to an op-ed in the conservative National Review from attorney David French, who was Kristol’s pick for an independent bid until French quashed the idea, in which the conservative writer argued that not a single delegate to Cleveland was actually “bound” to Trump.

Bob Vander Plaats, the head of The Family Leader, an influential social conservative group in Iowa, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan Friday morning that “everything does need to be on the table” at the convention, though he stopped short of calling for a revolt on the convention floor.

“We want a principled conservative and disciplined candidate who is the standard-bearer of this party,” said Vander Plaats, who backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during the primaries. He said Trump has time before the convention to “have the concerns laid to rest.”

He added, “We’re watching Trump.”

A Colorado delegate bound to Cruz who will serve on the GOP Rules Committee told ABC News that she plans to introduce a clause that would allow delegates to vote their conscience.

“All I’m doing is adapting to the circumstances,” Kendal Unruh told ABC. “I certainly believe Trump’s demagogic racist comments are hurting him.”

The rules enacted by the previous convention, which govern in 2016 until delegates pass a new set of rules, state that even if a delegate casts a ballot for a candidate other than one they are bound to, the convention secretary will record their bound vote.

In order to change that rule, the 112 delegates (two from each state and territory) on the Rules Committee would have to pass different rules and bring those to the floor of the convention, where a majority of delegates present would have to approve them.

Rules expert and RNC veteran Jim Bopp, an Indiana delegate who serves as special counsel to the RNC Rules Committee, said he has spoken with people who want to “keep the option open to manipulate the rules in some way to deny Trump the nomination,” but he said he wouldn’t bet on any changes.

“I would put money on no rules changes that would affect the outcome of the nominating process,” Bopp told CNN. “I think it’s highly likely that no rules changes would be adopted that would affect the nomination.”

Bopp said there’s also a counter movement within Rules insiders to pass a rule that would prevent any other rules changes from going into effect until the close of the convention.

Rules Committee and Oregon RNC member Solomon Yue is behind that effort, and has been pushing the RNC this year to adopt rules that give less power to the party and more to the delegates. He tried but failed to get the party to adopt rules that would require bigger majorities to pass business at the convention.

Yue says with roughly 80% of the convention delegates being either Trump or Cruz backers, the anti-Trump forces don’t have much strength.

“The common denominator of the delegates is anti-establishment, anti-Washington,” Yue said. “And if you think about ‘Never Trump’ people, they are representing Washington and the establishment.”

The New York Times’ Jeremy Peters reported on similar discussions earlier this week, but as Peters notes such a move would be exxceedingly difficult:

Stopping Mr. Trump at this point could prove additionally difficult, however, because he has quietly filled the most important convention committees — those that will determine the rules and platform — with delegates loyal to him.

Initially seen as not having a strong delegate whip operation, Mr. Trump can now count on about half the seats on the platform and rules committees, according to Republicans who have been tracking delegate selection. This is a major turnaround from two months ago, when Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign was sweeping the delegate contests.

Conflicting impulses are at play. Republicans have been reluctant to openly encourage a challenge to Mr. Trump at the convention for fear of hopelessly splitting the party. But they are not discouraging the idea, either, as their patience with Mr. Trump’s erratic and offensive behavior wears thin.


Once Mr. Trump became the presumptive nominee last month, party officials more or less fell in line. Even Mr. Ryan came around, announcing last week that he would support Mr. Trump — just as Mr. Trump, it turned out, was unloading on Judge Curiel.

One other obstacle confronts the never-say-die “Never Trump” crowd: No candidate of any stature has stepped forward to challenge Mr. Trump at the convention.

“Until somebody gets courage, it doesn’t matter,” said Curly Haugland, a member of the convention Rules Committee from North Dakota who has argued that delegates should vote their consciences in Cleveland — a position that puts him at odds with the leadership of the Republican National Committee.

Without a candidate, Mr. Haugland added, all talk of a contested convention is meaningless. “In order to have a contested convention,” he said, “we need to have contestants.”

In reality, of course, the “plans” being talked about now are just the latest effort by Republican ‘establishment’ figures and movement conservatives who have obviously become increasingly horrified by the idea of Donald Trump at the top of their ticket to do something that sixteen opponents and a year-long primary campaign were unable to do, stop Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination. There’s nothing wrong with this goal, of course. His rhetoric, temperament, and the fact that he clearly has at best only a superficial command of the economic and foreign policy issues facing the United States make it clear that Donald Trump doesn’t belong anywhere near the Oval Office or even at the top of the ticket of a major political party. As I noted earlier this week, he has spent the past year making bigoted comments about Mexicans and Muslims, mocking disabled people, attacking women like Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina in the most crass and demeaning manner, encouraging his supporters to engage in violence against supporters, and demonstrating utter disdain for the Rule of Law and Freedom of the Press. Most importantly, polling is increasingly starting to indicate that his candidacy poses a real danger of sending the Republican Party down a path that could very well end in an electoral disaster that would make 2008 and 2012 seem like good years by comparison. Only someone who is utterly insane would be comfortable with the idea of a man like this at the top of their ticket. The problem that these Republicans face is that it is far too late to stop Trump from winning the nomination on the floor and that any effort to do so is likely to just split the GOP further and make down ballot losses in November more likely and more severe.

As I’ve said before, if Donald Trump was going to be stopped, it needed to happen during the long period between his entry into the race and the time when the first ballots were cast in February. Instead of going after Trump during that period, though, Trump’s primary opponents acted liked they were afraid of taking him on and, in most cases, barely even responded when he attacked them directly. Jeb Bush, for example, did nothing to push back against Trump when the real estate executive labeled him as “low energy,” and indeed seemed to confirm that label with the way he cowered in the face of Trump’s juvenile attacks. The same was true of Marco Rubio and other candidates who might have had a chance if they’d taken Trump on directly. In many cases, it was apparent that the candidates were afraid to take Trump on because they believed that he would implode on his own and they didn’t want to offend his supporters in the hope that they could make a play for them when Trump had left the scene. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, took the far more cynical approach of spending most of the pre-primary period cozying up to Trump in the most obsequious ways possible in the hope that doing so would lead to him being the person who would inherit Trump’s support after the supposedly inevitable collapse. That collapse never happened, of course, and by the time the voting started and it was apparent that Trump was not only not going to implode but that he had maintained his position as the Republican frontrunner, it was essentially too late to stop him. The reaction when insiders began to realize this was, of course, predictable. There were discussions about contested conventions, third party and independent candidacies, and a whole host of other methods to try to deny reality. Each one of these efforts failed, largely because it was far too late to stop Trump at the point they were being discussed, and the same fate awaits these latest talks about potentially denying Trump the nomination on the floor.

First of all, as noted above Trump appears to have consolidated his support among the delegates pledged to him sufficiently to ensure that efforts to change the rules on the convention floor would likely fail, at which point Trump would emerge not just as the nominee but as a nominee who fought off yet another attack from the ‘establishment,” something that’s likely to just energize his more fanatical supporters. Second, the image of the GOP elite trying to deny the nomination to the candidate who has a 1,000 delegate lead in the delegate count, a lead of more than 5.5 million votes in the popular vote, and who has won more than 30 states over the past four months is not a flattering one for the GOP and it’s likely to hurt the GOP at all levels in the fall. Finally, if the effort did somehow succeed, it would likely mean an even more severe split in the GOP between those who back Trump and the so-called ‘establishment’ than already exists, and that would cause problems for the GOP going forward. What all this means for the #NeverTrump crowd and the rest of the GOP is very simple. Either they stay consistent with their position and refuse to vote for Trump in the fall — something that can take the form of voting for Hillary Clinton, voting for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, or not voting at all — or they give in and fall in line behind Trump notwithstanding his hateful rhetoric and the very obvious concerns about what kind of President he might be if he won. Tilting at windmills like a ‘contested convention’ at this late date is really just a waste of time.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Facebones says:

    Only someone who is utterly insane would be comfortable with the idea of a man like this at the top of their ticket.

    Seems like an apt description of the hardcore Republican base.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    The mistake Republicans made was in their voter suppression efforts. Clearly, rather than working to disenfranchise minorities and college kids Republicans should have suppressed the votes of Republicans.

    The GOP is coming out of the closet and is now an openly racist party. The question for the Spineless Speaker and the others is whether they can remain as nominal heads of that racist party. It goes without saying that in the end they’ll try.

  3. Slugger says:

    The political parties are enterprises that sell a service to people. Their service is governance. At the beginning of this election cycle I was amazed that an organization with aspirations to national leadership would allow its public face to be represented by a panel of clowns, jerks, and never-elected wannabes like the dozen or so people that showed up for the televised debates. I was sure that at some point, the established leadership would crack down. In these pages I called for Mr. Priebus to do his job. Instead the party of business and religious orthodoxy is now led by a guy who has two divorces and four bankruptcies on his CV. You have to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. Rebuilding the party begins with an active rejection of Mr. Trump. Sure, such a step is painful, but quick sharp pain now is the only way to avoid a long doleful decline.
    The Democratic party went through a decline after McGovern which would have been much worse if Nixon hadn’t decided to try to fix what was already a landslide for him.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    If it’s a Billy Kristol idea, why are we even bothering to explain the stupidity of the strategy?

    Will be interested in seeing how many Republicans are more interested in “following the power” rather than looking at reality and realizing how absolutely horrible Trump would be as POTUS.

    I also wonder what the over/under would be on Trump being impeached by his own party.

  5. James Pearce says:

    Memo to #NeverTrump Republicans: The only way to stop Trump at this point is to elect Hillary Clinton. And yes, I know, this may be hard to do, but that’s the only way it’s going to happen.

  6. motopilot says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I also wonder what the over/under would be on Trump being impeached by his own party.

    I guess that makes his VP pick pretty interesting. Imagine… work to get Trump elected and then impeach him to get someone else in as Prez. Sounds like Mitch McConnell style politics.

  7. Loviatar says:

    With Trump at the top of the ticket, every Republican should be asked to make the following choice.

    A) I’m a racist


    B) While I don’t believe I’m a racist, I will willing support a racist


    C) Not that I disagree with Trump’s message, I’m just ashamed that he said it in plain english.

    So Republicans which one are you A, B or C


    scorecard so far:

    A: Newt Gingrich, David Duke, Chris Christie

    B: Paul Ryan, John McCain, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Herman Cain

    C: Mitt Romney, Lindsay Graham, Jeb Bush

  8. steve s says:

    The US election system is like a restaurant that has tacos or pizza. You pick tacos, or you pick pizza. You can be precious and tell them you really want a third-party hamburger, but you’re just acting like a douche and wasting everyone’s time, because you’ll never get a hamburger and you know it. In the end, it’s going to be tacos or pizza. So fucking decide which one is better.

  9. Joe says:

    @motopilot: I am reminded of the popular theory that George H.W. Bush chose Dan Quayle to blunt the possibility of being impeached for the Iran/Contra scandal.

  10. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. The NYT has a good write-up today of Trump’s Atlantic City shenanigans.

    Anyone who believes any promise Donald Trump makes has to have rocks in his head.

  11. Jenos Idanian says:

    @James Pearce: Memo to all voters: The only way to stop Hillary at this point is to elect Donald Trump. And yes, I know, this may be hard to do, but that’s the only way it’s going to happen.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Won’t be hard for you, dude. You’ve always wanted a white supremacist goon.

  13. Jenos Idanian says:

    BTW, it turns out that Hillary sold a seat on the International Security Advisory Board (which deals with nuclear security issues) to a big donor who had NO other qualifications for the position other than he gave her a lot of money.

    Apparently the price of that seat is about a quarter of a million dollars…

  14. Jenos Idanian says:

    @michael reynolds: Blow it out your ass, you sociopathic sot.

  15. Eric Florack says:

    I guess it comes down to which the delegates hold higher. The party and its rules or the country and its survival.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    You can’t hide it anymore. You’ve outed yourself. I mean, we all kind of guessed by the way you popped up instantly to defend every white man who ever shot a black man in this country, regardless of the merits.

    But now you support Trump. So, yes, little Jenos, in addition to knowing just how intellectually limited you are, we now know beyond a reasonable doubt, that you’re a racist.

    So, come on Jenos: fly your bigot flag proudly. Why hide it? Why deny your true nature? Your candidate doesn’t try to hide his racism or misogyny. What are you, a coward? Slip on that sheet, throw that stiff right arm up and stop being a wimp about it.

  17. Christopher Osborne says:

    I think the worse case scenario for Democrats is not if Donald Trump is “cheated” out of the nomination, but if Mr Trump exits citing business concerns or something other excuse and urges his followers to vote for the candidate (which I fear will be Senator Cruz) nominated. It seems like it will be a tidal wave election with Mr Trump as the nominee or if the is “cheated” out of the election. It will be closer if he can somehow extricate himself from what is going to be a long hard slog for him and at the same time mollify his supporters. He’ll suck up airtime lobbing insults at Secretary Clinton while going unchallenged on his veracity.

    His most recent speech (the one with the teleprompter) was oddly unemotional and not as vigorous as his speeches usually are. I thought maybe he’s already trying to figure a way out of the mess he’s gotten himself into. I know for certain that if he does stay in, by November he’s going to have wished he lost the nomination.

  18. Jenos Idanian says:

    @michael reynolds: I apologize for calling you a psychotic sot.

    I mean sociopathic sot. You’re obviously not psychotic.

    As far as your accusations… only in your alcohol-soaked brain do they bear any resemblance to reality. And to call your examples anecdotal would be an insult to anecdotes.

  19. Gustopher says:

    @Loviatar: I think you’re being unfair to Romney — I believe he is truly appalled by Trump’s racism. Romney doesn’t like poor people, regardless of color.

    The Republican Party has used dog whistles of “welfare queens” and such to mean black people, but they had Old Mittens on the word “welfare”, before he even made the connection to minorities.

  20. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian: How is it possible that you are the only person in the world who has met you who doesn’t know exactly what you are? Have you never heard of a mirror?

  21. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    How much did the Bush admin get for installing senior executives from two different defense contractors on the board? Just asking …

  22. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Eric Florack: You and Doug are such buzzkills. That being said, the people who keep this pipe dream going are scoring extra irony points now for upholding the obvious constitutional principle that “the voters decide nothing; the convention [a.k.a. the party leadership] decides everything.” (I remember someone else saying something similar…can’t place the name…steel, or something). What better way to show the nation and the world that:

    “We want a principled conservative and disciplined candidate who is the standard-bearer of this party…”

  23. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @wr: Is this the same Jenos who chastises the moderators of the site for failing to chastise ad-hominem attacks on him because he never does that to anyone?

    As far as your accusations… only in your alcohol-soaked brain do they bear any resemblance to reality.

  24. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Memo to all voters: The only way to stop Hillary at this point is to elect Donald Trump.

    I know. Sad, innit?

  25. michael reynolds says:


    Oh, he knows. They all know, deep down. They just don’t have the courage to be open about it. They’re scared of being called what they are. That’s why their mantra is “political correctness,” because what they mean by that is that they can’t openly proclaim their racist beliefs without causing people to turn away, nauseated.

    Interesting, isn’t it, because I have no problem being called a liberal, or a progressive, or saying proudly that I support diversity. I’ll even admit that yes, Hillary is a bit shady at times. There’s no public me and private me, same guy either way.

    But a guy like Jenos knows what he is and knows that it’s sickening to decent people, and he can’t quite bring himself to just be authentic. That will have to wait till the uniforms and armbands are handed out.

  26. Gustopher says:

    I have a feeling that the Secret Service’s decision to suppress the 2nd Amendment rights for people in the convention will end up saving lives, as everyone accuses everyone of trying to destroy democracy.

    I’m not sure if it will get to the point of fist fights, but it’s a lot easier to threaten someone with a gun than your fists, so I wouldn’t take lack of fist fights as evidence that there wouldn’t have been shootings.

  27. Gustopher says:

    @wr: he’s not a racist, he’s just telling it like it is — he can’t help that there are all these scary brown people swarming our borders with excellent food and a good work ethic, or that the cities are filled with scary brown people who have been systematically discriminated against so they cannot escape the trap of poverty and discrimination.

    He just wants to be left alone.

    Like any good person, he wants to put up a privacy fence so he doesn’t have to see that shit. And if he catches a glimpse from between the slats of his privacy fence, he wants to shoot them. And no voting outside of that fence either.

  28. steve s says:

    yesterday was Sasha Obama’s 15th birthday.

    If you want to hate the human race, or at least the Republican party, google “Conservatives Wish Sasha Obama A Happy 15th Birthday”

  29. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Christopher Osborne: Somewhat related (Trump’s exit)….
    Just as there is no legal requirement that Trump release his tax returns, can Trump decline to engage in the presidential debates?
    just a thought….

    As I recall, in the primary debates he never did say anything of substance, so I’m looking forward to seeing his debating skills on issues.

  30. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @steve s: Wow! Classy! But I have a question–why should those whatever they are cause me to hate humans? I mean, it’s not like those well(?) wishers are even as worth the cost of a bullet sharing the communal air with as Jenos or JKB, you know.

  31. MarkedMan says:

    Can someone take my comment out of spam purgatory?

  32. MBunge says:

    The time to stop Trump wasn’t earlier in the campaign. I suppose if Jeb Bush had decided to become a kamikaze and take Trump down to clear the way for someone else, that might have worked but Trump was facing serious hostile opposition as early as the South Carolina primary and not only survived but thrived.

    The time to stop Trump was in 2011 and 2012, when he became America’s most famous Birther. If people in the GOP and politics in general had reacted to that as disqualifying, instead of splashing Trump all over the media and Romney practically begging for his endorsement, I think it’s very likely Trump gives up any thought of running, exactly as he had before.


  33. An Interested Party says:

    It’s Too Late To Stop Donald Trump At The Convention

    And a grateful nation (and the even more grateful Democratic Party) thank you…

  34. Davebo says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Clearly, rather than working to disenfranchise minorities and college kids Republicans should have suppressed the votes of Republicans.

    Glad your back Michael and this is why.

  35. Mister Bluster says:

    Stopping Mr. Trump at this point could prove additionally difficult, however, because he has quietly filled the most important convention committees — those that will determine the rules and platform — with delegates loyal to him.

    When you are up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember why you started draining the swamp…

  36. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    I mean sociopathic sot. You’re obviously not psychotic.

    Takes one to know one, heh?

  37. Jenos Idanian says:

    A brief clarification on two points:

    1) I don’t complain about the wholesale non-enforcement of the “no ad hominem attacks” rule, merely note it and, on occasion, violate it like many others.

    2) Mr. reynolds’ accusation that “I mean, we all kind of guessed by the way you popped up instantly to defend every white man who ever shot a black man in this country, regardless of the merits” is based on a total sample of two incidents. And in both incidents, the facts and the juries proved that I was right and Mr. reynolds’ side was wrong. And proving them wrong is an unforgivable sin.

    What’s closer to the truth is to say that Mr. reynolds (and others) presume that any time a white person shoots a black person, it’s racism, “regardless of the merits.” Sucks for them that the two biggest cases they want to howl about are ones that were legally justified shootings — as found by investigations and juries.

    Mr. reynolds, have you ever admitted that the “hands up, don’t shoot” was a total fabrication?

    But back on topic… the GOP, if they wanted to have the kind of veto power that they seem to want now, should have followed the Democrats’ anti-democratic “superdelegates” scheme, or come up with one of their own. Instead, they created a set of rules, laid them out, and said that they’d support whoever won by those rules.

    Now that Trump has won by those rules, they’re having regrets. Big regrets. YUUUUUGE regrets, even.

    I think Trump has the potential to be the ultimate embodiment of the oft-quoted observation that “in a democracy, people tend to get the government they deserve.”

  38. DrDaveT says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    based on a total sample of two incidents. And in both incidents, the facts and the juries proved that I was right

    Your powers of selective forgetting are awesome. Does the name “Tamir Rice” ring any bells? Or, now that you’ve unforgotten his murder, are you going to claim that “the facts proved you right” there, too?

  39. Jenos Idanian says:

    @DrDaveT: The Rice case was a tragedy. A grand jury declined to bring charges. The cop was a lousy cop, in general, but in this case his actions weren’t wrong to the point of being criminal.

  40. DrDaveT says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    The cop was a lousy cop, in general, but in this case his actions weren’t wrong to the point of being criminal.

    They would have been if he’d shot a rich white tween under identical circumstances. Using the racial bias of the legal system as proof that bias is justified is ballsy even for you.

    The relevant sample is “unjustified shootings of blacks by non-blacks”. It’s amazing (yet sad) how you think 3 anecdotes constitute a generalizable pattern when they confirm your prejudices, but every case is an unfortunate isolated incident when they don’t…

  41. steve s says:

    I accidentally posted this on the wrong post. I meant to post it here:

    Donald Trump, Mainstream Conservative

    The time to stop Trump was in the 1990s, when the movement’s intellectuals were busy prostrating themselves before Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as they sought to remake the GOP into a party for white Christians. The time to stop Trump was during the George W. Bush administration, when Republicans swallowed the nonsense that deposing secular dictators was a great way to promote moderate Islam. The time to stop Trump was in 2009, when Sarah Palin was dumbing down conservatism into an alternative lifestyle that glorified anti-intellectualism. The time to stop Donald Trump was in 2013, when Ted Cruz was opportunistically telling Republican voters that obstreperousness was the equivalent of conservative philosophy.

    2016 was far too late to stop the Trump Train.