Quixotic ‘Stop Trump’ Movement Still Out There, Still Doomed To Fail

Despite a year of utter failure, one group of Republicans apparently still thinks they can deny Donald Trump the Republican nomination.

Donald Trump Victory

With less than two weeks to go until the Republican National Convention, and Donald Trump reportedly set to announce his Vice-Presidential running mate next week, the putative “Stop Trump” movement among Republican insiders and pundits, which largely failed to, well, stop Donald Trump, at every crucial point during the primary campaign, is still out there working, although its efforts seem even more quixotic than before:

Republican convention delegates hoping to snatch the party’s presidential nomination from Donald Trump are still coming up short.

Leaders of “Free the Delegates,” a coalition of various groups hoping to stop Trump at the Republican convention in Cleveland this month, conceded Tuesday night that they’re far short of the votes needed to change GOP presidential nomination rules and reopen the battle.

“It’s just continuing to be the uphill battle that I knew it would be,” said Kendal Unruh, a group leader.

Despite near-daily conversations with delegates worried about Trump’s presumed nomination, “There’s just a lot of pressure, a lot of fear, a lot of ‘I’m with you in theory, but I’m trying to get the courage to come out and support it,'” she told group members on a weekly conference call.

Unruh is a member of the 112-member convention rules committee, which will determine exactly how Trump will be formally nominated by the party. The panel’s meetings are scheduled to begin July 14 and could run as long as three days, depending on how long it takes to debate potential rules changes.

Unruh would need at least 56 votes to approve her proposal to allow delegates to vote however they want, instead of being bound to the results of state caucuses and primaries. After that, a majority of the convention’s delegates would need to vote for her plan when the party meeting opens on July 18.

But Unruh’s idea has the public support of less than 10 members of the rules panel, according to a Washington Post tally of delegates.

Given those odds, “Courage is not in excess” among delegates, another group leader, Dane Waters lamented on the call.

Trump has dismissed attempts to unseat him as “illegal” and has a team of up to 150 paid staffers and volunteers preparing to thwart any attempt to stop him at the convention. Four of his top convention lieutenants are on the rules committee and prepared to help stop Unruh’s proposal, according to campaign aides familiar with the plans.

Unruh and Waters are part of a small, but vocal group of GOP activists who believe that national Republican leaders have bucked long-standing rules that grant presidential nomination powers only to convention delegates. They argue that as members of a private association, only they can ultimately decide who the party nominates.

Unlikely to prevail in the rules committee, Free the Delegates is now focused on a federal court challenge set to be considered on Thursday in Virginia.

Carroll “Beau” Correll, one of Virginia’s 49 GOP convention delegates, filed suit in federal court in Richmond on June 24 challenging a state law binding him to the results of the March 1 primary. He supported the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). His suit argues that the state law binding him to the primary results violates his First Amendment right to vote his “conscience, free from government compulsion.”

“States shouldn’t be compelling members of a private organization” to vote a certain way, Correll told the conference call on Tuesday night. He said a favorable court ruling could eventually strike down laws binding convention delegates to the results of caucuses and primaries and “send a resonating message to about 20 states” that have such laws.

A group of eight Virginia delegates, backed by the Trump campaign, intervened in Correll’s case by asking the judge to dismiss the challenge. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has said he will defend the current state law in court.

From the start, it’s important I think to distinguish between this group of Republican delegates and insiders, who seem to continue to believe that there is some realistic chance of denying the Republican nomination to Donald Trump and the broader “Never Trump” movement, which largely consists of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters, pundits, and activists who have vowed not to vote for Trump notwithstanding the fact that he will be the Republican nominee for President. The second group is at least realistic enough to recognize the fact that denying Trump the nomination at this point, when the delegate count shows him with more than 300 more delegates than he needs to win the nomination after having garnered more than 13 million popular votes over the course of the four month primary race would be nothing short of a fool’s errand. The first group is made up of the same people who have been involved in all of the previous efforts to stop Trump that cropped up over the course of the past year, whether it was the effort to rally behind Marco Rubio despite the fact that he showed no ability to win a single significant primary, the failed alliance between Ted Cruz and John Kasich, the efforts to get some white knight candidate such as Mitt Romney to enter the GOP race at the last minute and save the day, Mitt Romney’s own too little, too late effort to urge Republicans to unite against Trump, to the effort to find some establishment candidate, or even just some dude who writes for National Review, to run for President as an Independent largely as an effort to deny Donald Trump the Presidency and/or force the race for President into the House of Representatives due to the fact that no candidate obtained a majority of Electoral Votes. For various reasons, including primarily the fact that they all came far too late in the process to have any real impact, all of these efforts failed.

Now, it appears, the same forces behind these failed efforts are engaged in one last ditch effort to deny Trump the nomination. As with all the previous plans, this one is marked by unrealistic goals, the apparent lack of a plan for what would happen next if they somehow succeeded, and a certain level of “Hail Mary” desperation that the whole thing seem incredibly pathetic. The idea that some small group of insiders is going to be able to deny Trump the nomination at this point in the process is, quite simply, absurd. Like it or not, and you can count me among those who doesn’t like it, Donald Trump has won this nomination fair and square and using obscure parliamentary maneuvering and rules manipulation to change the rules of the game at the last minute isn’t going to succeed due to the fact that Trump’s level of support among the delegates is simply to high to allow it to happen and because the powers that be at the Republican National Committee are now clearly committed to a convention that runs as smoothly as possible, meaning that so-called “establishment” delegates on the Rules Committee are likely to join with Trump supporters in blocking this latest effort to change the rules of the game in the Rules Committee meeting next week. At that point, the “stop Trump” movement will be over for sure and its backers will be faced with the same choice that Republicans all over the country will be faced with in the fall.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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. C. Clavin says:

    With Trump out there praising authoritarian dictators…Putin, Kim Jong Il, and now Saddam Hussein…and accusing the AG of accepting bribes…the GOP better hope they can stop him.
    Or they are in for an historic butt-whooping.

  2. CSK says:

    I still think Trump might bail after the convention, citing some mystery ailment that would prevent a run but not prevent him from playing golf and running his businesses. He needs to win, and surely even someone as lacking in self-awareness as he must know Clinton will clobber him in the general.

  3. rachel says:

    @CSK: He doesn’t strike me as a well man, and I actually wouldn’t be surprised if he had a stroke or something like that at any time.

  4. Jen says:

    What seems pathetic to you may be what allows them to sleep at night (or look in the mirror in the morning). Trump is detestable and there are some Republicans who will continue to fight his nomination out of principle–either because they dislike him, or because they are looking down the road at the damage that is being done to the party now that will have an impact for years to come.

    I am also in agreement with CSK that it’s entirely possible that Trump will bail at some point, in which case those who have been fighting him will at least be able to say, “see? We told you so. Now please nominate X.”*

    * I still haven’t been able to figure out what the possibilities are if Trump does bail post-convention. Having the VP take over seems logical, but it appears as though the RNC would have authority to appoint.

  5. James Pearce says:


    I still think Trump might bail after the convention

    I keep hearing this “bail after the convention” theory and I have to ask, why do you think he’d quit and why do you think he’d quit then?

    This whole idea has never made sense to me.

  6. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Jen: I don’t know the mechanics of how a candidate would be selected if Trump bailed but I think the R’s would have to go with Cruz based on primaries and caucus results.

  7. CSK says:

    @James Pearce:

    Mostly I think you’re hearing it from me.

    Two reasons:

    He’d quit because he knows he can’t win the general, and someone with his colossal yet fragile ego couldn’t endure being beaten, particularly by a woman.

    He’d wait till after the convention because he wants that coronation in Cleveland, that four-day Festival of Trump. It would be the summit of his life.

  8. Pch101 says:

    The point is that they keep attacking Trump by whatever means because they want to generate negative buzz against him. At the very least, they would like Trump to have a miserable convention for everyone to see, not a big happy gala filled with smiles and unity.

    It would help to remember that this is the same party that has investigated Benghazi again and again and again and that voted against Obamacare again and again and again and again even though those repetitions didn’t directly achieve anything. The GOP’s tactic is to attack, attack, attack, and now they’re applying the same tactic to one of their own.

  9. Jen says:

    @Mr. Prosser: The mechanics are at the link I posted. The RNC chair would call a meeting of the RNC committeemen/women, who would then nominate the new ticket. Cruz might make the case that it should be him, but it does not appear as though the committee members would be bound in any way to him–Kasich could make a stronger argument to them that he polls better in the general match-up–and, he stayed in the race longer (by a day or so, but still).

    @James Pearce: You’ve heard it from me too. He got in this race to pump up his “brand” and it is backfiring spectacularly. He’s losing business and he’s under more scrutiny than ever before (which he hates, because political reporters have a tendency to follow up on “let’s donate the profits to charity!” cr@p that he’s used to getting away with (Trump Vodka, Trump board game). His “real” wealth is being questioned and challenged. He seems exactly like the type of petulant child who will take his toys and go home if things aren’t going his way.

    However, that involves him actually realizing that things aren’t going his way. Lately I’ve moved a tiny bit away from the idea that he might quit, because of him saying things like “look at the crowd here, how are we not winning?” when he sees a packed arena, because he can’t seem to separate fans/fanatics coming to hear him from the numbers of likely voters. That isn’t a person dealing in reality. Realizing that he’s not going to win (and yes, lose to a girl) would require he understand voting behavior.

  10. CSK says:
  11. CSK says:

    Not sure why my comment above came out in red. I didn’t link to anything.

  12. CSK says:

    @James Pearce:

    Another point in favor of a Trump bailout is that he did no tv advertising in June, and has no ground operation in the swing states. Why bother with those unless you’re actually going to run?

  13. Neil Hudelson says:

    Trump has dismissed attempts to unseat him as “illegal” and has a team of up to 150 paid staffers and volunteers preparing to thwart any attempt to stop him at the convention.

    “The campaign estimates it currently has about 30 paid staff on the ground across the country.”

    So Trump has 5 times more staff focusing on just keeping his nomination secure, than focusing on winning the Presidency. The #NeverTrump movement may be quixotic, but they aren’t completely ineffective.

  14. CSK says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Yet another indication that what he wants is the nomination, not a run against Clinton.

  15. Pch101 says:


    Trump doesn’t have the money or the organization.

    It would seem that Corey Lewandowski was an order taker, not a campaign manager. As it turns out, he was taking orders from a guy who does not know how to campaign.

    One can imagine that Trump (a) never crafted a plan for getting this far and (b) figured he had reinvented campaigning by using social media to drum up big events. The whole idea of building up a ground game in order to get out the vote was probably not on his radar. That network is vital but it cannot be created overnight, and it will only hurt him further if the GOP doesn’t bother to help.

  16. James Pearce says:


    He’d quit because he knows he can’t win the general

    This supposes a more reasonable version of Trump than the one that’s been on display. The Trump we have now thinks he can win, and what’s more, he thinks he’s the answer to this country’s problems, so he should win.

    It would be the summit of his life

    Just getting the nomination? Does Trump strike you as that kind of underachiever?

  17. CSK says:

    @James Pearce:

    Look, if he gets the nomination and bails because even he realizes he can’t win, or because it’s too much work campaigning and a lot more work being president, yes.

    A bonus for him: He can hint darkly to his demented acolytes that the Clinton Crime Family or the Bush/Rove/Ryan/Romney Cabal–or both in league together–threatened his loved ones, and he had to bail to protect them.

  18. James Pearce says:


    Look, if he gets the nomination and bails because even he realizes he can’t win, or because it’s too much work campaigning and a lot more work being president, yes.

    But you’re putting these rational thoughts into Donald Trump’s deluded brain. He’s never going to “realize he can’t win.” What he’s going to realize is that “the system is rigged,” a claim he has already made repeatedly.

    As for the work stuff, he’s not taking the “work” of the campaign seriously, and he doesn’t think the presidency is going to be work at all.

  19. CSK says:

    @James Pearce:

    Isn’t “the system is rigged” just another reason/excuse to bail? Particularly for someone who only got into this to flex his ego and his brand?

    Look, I’m not saying this is going to happen. It might happen. It’s not outside the realm of possibility.

  20. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Pearce: There’s also the factor of a guy with 3 or 4 bankruptcies and a dozen or more failed enterprises not being a quit-while-I’m-ahead kind of guy.

  21. grumpy realist says:

    It looks like Ernst has bailed from Trump VP. And one other–Crocker?–has jumped as well.

    So I guess we’re getting down to the political circus clowns with no future (Gingrich, Christie, Pence) or the totally batsh*t (Cotton, Gingrich).

  22. James Pearce says:


    Isn’t “the system is rigged” just another reason/excuse to bail?

    No, it would seem to be the reason he’s running.

    It’s not outside the realm of possibility.

    Sure, but it’s also not outside the realm of possibility that we’re all descended from alien ancestors either. That’s why we usually look at what is and not what’s possible.

  23. Eric Florack says:

    The one thing that we do know is that if Donald Trump takes the nomination, we all better get used to saying President Clinton again