Yes, a GOP Delegate Revolt is Possible

by Thomas L Knapp…….

Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, is heading toward July’s national party convention with a majority of delegates (as “bound” by state primaries and caucuses) in hand. But ever since it became clear that he would garner that majority, both he and the GOP leadership have spent a good deal of time trying to snuff out talk of a floor revolt by those delegates against his nomination and in favor of some other candidate’s.

“The Republican National Committee put out a statement ‘you can’t do it, it’s not legal, you can’t do it, you’re not allowed to do it,'” says Trump.

Is Trump right? Is it “illegal” for the delegates to do what they want instead of what Trump and the RNC claim the rules demand?

In a word, no.

Keep in mind that at a national convention, the delegates run the national committee, not the other way around. They make the rules. They can change the rules. They can suspend the rules. And even the rules as written leave room for a revolt.

In order to receive the nomination, Republican National Convention rule 40(d) requires a candidate to receive a majority of “the votes entitled to be cast.” In other words, the votes of a majority of the total number of registered delegates, not just of a majority of the delegates who happen to actually vote.

Rule 16, section 2, forbids the convention’s secretary to recognize the vote of a delegate bound to a particular candidate by a primary or caucus outcome if that vote is cast for another candidate … but no rule requires a delegate to vote at all.

If enough Trump-bound delegates with “votes entitled to be cast” decline to vote on the first ballot, Trump won’t get a majority on that ballot. And on subsequent ballots, delegates are no longer bound to candidates — they can vote for their nominee of choice.

100% possible, 100% legal … but how likely? Well, that depends on the party’s leadership.

Party officials enjoy quite a bit of power at conventions. At the recent Libertarian National Convention, there were times when a “quorum call” (a head count to ensure enough delegates are present to legally do business) would have resulted in adjournment. There were calls from the floor to make that happen … but the chair apparently just didn’t hear them (I’m sure you get my meaning). Supporters of Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 Republican presidential campaigns still complain about the party establishment’s dirty parliamentary tricks at caucuses and conventions.

The likelihood of a delegate revolt in Cleveland is really mostly a matter of whether or not Reince Priebus and Company WANT a delegate revolt in Cleveland. On that question, your guess is as good as mine.


Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

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2 thoughts on “Yes, a GOP Delegate Revolt is Possible

  1. Thank you for filling in a few holes in my ignorance about political party conventions. Non-affiliated, I’m neither a Trump nor a Hillary fan, and can’t say Bernie wowed me, but he seemed a lesser devil, even though he was too war-oriented for me to want him in the Hawk (White) House. Yesterday, someone dropped something on the Libertarian candidates, Johnson & Weld, into my Facebook time line. An interesting, sometimes hilarious, You Tube, starring Johnson & Web alternating back and forth. Here’s a link to that video, it’s about 2 minutes, worth watching:

    Also interesting were two comments under the video:

    Kelly Headrick: Great ad. I don’t think some of the claims quite pass the truth test (or have more to do with factors outside of their roles as governors), but it’s appealing messaging to many voters and presents a reasonable alternative choice for those who seek it.

    Kelly Headrick to Sloan Bashinsky: I provide this reply from my perspective as someone who does state-level government relations work for a living, though admittedly most of it in Texas and a few surrounding states. I’m more aware of some state governing history in NM than in MA, but any governor who claims he/she has “cut taxes 14 times” etc. is already stretching the truth if they say that with no qualifiers, because that sort of thing happens through teamwork between a governor, legislature and stakeholders and not a governor alone. In short advertisements they have to be concise, so ok I can accept that. He probably did line item veto that number of things from state budgets, some of which I disagreed with, such as tobacco cessation programs paid out of the tobacco lawsuit settlement which is annually paid by smokers. (I work for the American Cancer Society). Johnson was governor in better financial times and frankly right now NM is doing pretty poorly. I know these two candidates want to sell governance as easy, but clearly it’s not – especially in financial and partisan-divided times like now. Hope that helps! My personal view is that this ticket is worth a look, especially for Republicans who can’t support Trump and moderates who can’t support Clinton, as well as anyone who leans libertarian.

  2. I think the Republicans have a real mess on their hands, or real messes. If they go with Trump at their convention, after saying no way they could, or would, back Trump, then they have told us their profession as well as their price. If they dump Trump for someone in their ranks, and the Donald goes off on his own Trump Party insurgency, how does that play out? Probably really interesting to watch. Hillary might love it. But maybe not, if the revolting Republicans decide to back Johnson & Weld :-), who look kinda like Republicans to me, except maybe Johnson & Weld are not owned by, or worship, the US military industrial complex?.

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