If no candidate secures 1237 delegates prior to the GOP convention in Cleveland in July, and the convention becomes an “open” or “contested” convention, there are two indisputable facts which are of importance.
The first is that the GOP nominee will either be Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Period. There will be no other alternative.
The second is that the GOP establishment cannot parachute Mitt Romney or anyone else in to save the day. Irony of ironies, the Romney Rules forbid it.
As to the first point, according to Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute, GOP nominating rules adopted in 2012 require that candidates win a majority of the delegates in eight states for their names even to be submitted for the nomination at the convention in July. If a candidate doesn’t meet that threshold, not a single vote cast for him at the convention will be counted. Votes might be cast for him from the floor, but those votes will not be counted on the dais.
In any round. Not in round one. Not in round two. Not in round three. Not ever.
So votes may be cast in the first round for Marco Rubio, or for John Kasich, or even for Ben Carson based on primary results. But those votes will not be tallied, will not be counted, and will not be announced by Speaker Paul Ryan at the close of round one balloting. It will be as if those votes do not even exist.
The only two candidates who can possibly meet the threshold of winning eight states are Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Trump has already met the threshold, and Cruz almost certainly will. No one else will even come close. As Blackwell writes, “As the national rules now stand, no delegate votes will be counted in Cleveland that are cast for any 2016 candidate who can’t show support from the majority of the delegations from at least eight states or territories.”
These rules were instituted by Mitt Romney and the rest of the Ruling Class Republicans in 2012 to kick Ron Paul to the curb. Paul had won five states and so met the threshold which existed at the time. Well, Romney and his elitist bunch altered the rules to raise the threshold to eight states before the convention began, and presto-change-o, Ron Paul was toast.
Not only will Trump and Cruz be the only ones able to receive votes that count in round one, they will be the only ones allowed to receive votes on round two, round three, and to infinity and beyond.
According to Blackwell, the rules are clear: “Only candidates who meet the eight-state threshold required to receive votes that count on the first ballot can receive votes that count on subsequent ballots.” Even unbound delegates will not be able to cast votes for anyone they want to. They will have two and only two choices: Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.
Delegates are not chosen by the candidates, but by the state conventions. I believe Ted Cruz would win the nomination in round two under this scenario, as most of the delegates - about 3/4 of them - will be party faithful who are horrified at the thought of a Trump nomination. The rules could be changed again, of course, but an attempt to do so would likely trigger the mother of all revolts on the convention floor.
Also, Donald Trump has said that whoever has the most delegates going into the convention should get the nomination, rules or no rules. If he fails to get to 1237 before the convention, and loses to Cruz in the second round, he’s quite liable to claim the GOP is not playing fair, and perhaps announce an independent run in the middle of the convention.
Now because only candidates who qualify to have votes counted for them in round one are eligible to receive votes in round two, it is impossible for the establishment to parachute anyone in to be the white knight who redeems the GOP from itself.
“Under the current rules,” Blackwell notes, “therefore, it’s nonsense to talk about any candidate coming from behind to win the nomination unless that candidate meets the eight-state threshold before the first ballot, much less to talk about breaking a possible convention deadlock by nominating anyone who is not right now a candidate for the nomination.”
Now those rules were fine for the GOP establishment when the goal was keeping a bag over Ron Paul’s head. But in an abrupt reversal of fortune, Romney has been hoisted on his own petard. In a classic case of falling into the pit one has dug for others, Mitt Romney, by acing out Ron Paul in 2012, has aced himself out in 2016.
Blackwell tried to have these undemocratic rules changed at a meeting of the Rules Committee just two months ago, to no avail.
Bottom line: the GOP candidate for the presidency will either be Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. There will be no other. Why? Because Mitt Romney got the rules he wanted. Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.