At least 30 delegates are mounting a longshot attempt to deny Donald Trump the GOP presidential nomination on the convention floor, The Washington Post reported Friday.
The delegates hope to change party rules next month to take away delegates who are pledged to the presumptive nominee but who may not actually support him.
The attempt comes on the heels of a tough stretch for Trump, who has seen his favorability plummet and any lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton evaporate over his attacks on a Hispanic federal judge, comments this week about banning Muslims and other controversies.
By party rules, Trump has the majority of delegates bound to vote for him on the convention floor, so any successful coup would require freeing those delegates from their commitments in direct violation of party rules currently in effect.
There are two main ways the delegates could be successful: voting to change the party rules to unbind delegates altogether or to insert a “conscience clause” in the rules that would allow delegates to break pledges based on their conscience. Each strategy has been floated by a number of delegates, but so far a critical mass has not lined up behind either one.
But since not all of Trump’s bound delegates necessarily support him on a personal level, there’s hope that freeing delegates could prompt a mass exodus from Trump that would deliver the nomination to someone else.
“This literally is an ‘Anybody but Trump’ movement,” Colorado Republican delegate Kendal Unruh, the campaign’s leader, told The Post.
“Nobody has any idea who is going to step in and be the nominee, but we’re not worried about that. We’re just doing that job to make sure that he’s not the face of our party.”
The group held a conference call on Thursday that included delegates from 15 states, the group told the paper.
Trump criticized the attempts in a statement to The Washington Post, noting that he won more votes in the 2016 primary than any GOP candidate in history.
“I have tremendous support and get the biggest crowds by far and any such move would not only be totally illegal but also a rebuke of the millions of people who feel so strongly about what I am saying,” he told the paper.
“People that I defeated soundly in the primaries will do anything to get a second shot — but there is no mechanism for it to happen.”
Any change would have to be approved by the majority of the delegates to the convention, 1,238, which means that the group would have to woo more than 1,000 more sympathizers between now and the July 18 convention.
Republican delegates and lawmakers have expressed caution at such drastic measures, warning that steps like these could cause a revolt among Trump supporters or appear as though the party elites were disregarding the will of the grassroots. And the Republican National Committee has repeatedly urged the party to unify around Trump, who won the primary process.
But prominent Republicans, including House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.) and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, have refused to fall into line, both telling reporters this week they would not back Trump.
There have also been attempts to woo a third-party candidate into the ring — most notably by conservative columnist Bill Kristol — in order to give “Never Trump” Republicans an attractive outlet for their vote. But those talks haven’t produced a candidate, as many of the top names have declined.