Republican Voters Want Say in Choosing Nominee, Poll Finds

Survey shows resistance to idea that convention could pick ‘white knight’ alternate to Donald Trump, Ted Cruz

Republican voters overwhelmingly reject the idea of GOP convention delegates’ choosing a presidential nominee who hasn’t run in the 2016 primaries, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found.

Asked about possible scenarios at this summer’s Republican National Convention, 71% of Republican primary voters said it would be unacceptable for the party to select a nominee from outside the ranks of the candidates who have run in primaries and caucuses.

That illustrates stiff resistance to the idea, floated by some in the party, that the Cleveland convention could pick a “white knight’’ nominee as an alternative to front-runner Donald Trump and his chief rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Such a scenario could arise only if neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Cruz secures the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination.

Mr. Trump has been accusing the GOP of having “rigged” the system for selecting convention delegates to shortchange him. He has warned that his supporters will rebel against the party if he is denied the nomination if he shows up at the convention with more votes, primary victories and delegates than his rivals.

Reince Priebus, chairman of Republican National Committee, in an interview on CNN beat back Mr. Trump’s claim that party leaders are conspiring to block him, calling his criticism “rhetoric and hyperbole.”

Mr. Priebus said he had told the RNC’s rules committee, which is due to meet this week in Florida, not to make or recommend any major convention rules changes at this time.

“I don’t think it is a good idea for us…before the convention, to make serious rules changes right now,” Mr. Priebus said on CNN Sunday. “I think we are in a politically charged environment.…It is up to the delegates at the convention.”

A senior Trump adviser said the campaign would be filing protests in some states, including Colorado, where Republicans hold a party convention in lieu of a statewide primary to allocate delegates. Mr. Cruz last weekend won all available delegates there.

“Voters were left out of the process,” Paul Manafort said on ABC.

Mr. Cruz’s campaign said delegate rules should have been known to all candidates. “We’re playing within the rules established a long time ago and motivating voters based on Ted’s vision,” Ken Cuccinelli, who is running Mr. Cruz’s delegate efforts, said on ABC.

If no one comes to the convention with a delegate majority in hand, the WSJ/NBC poll found the voters want the convention to rely more on the will of the Republican electorate than on the judgment of the delegates.

Barring a delegate majority, the poll found, some 62% of the voters believe the convention should nominate the person who won the most votes in the primaries.

By contrast, 33% said the convention should pick the candidate who delegates think would be the best nominee.

In a more specific question on the issue, the poll found that 54% of the voters said it would be unacceptable if Mr. Trump arrived at the convention with the most delegates but short of the required 1,237 and the convention nominated someone else.

The Journal/NBC News poll found some openness to a Cruz nomination. More than half said it would be acceptable if Mr. Cruz won by convincing delegates backing other candidates to support him.

Republicans are divided over whether Mr. Trump should run as an independent if he is the delegate leader but denied the nomination: 45% said that scenario would be acceptable, while 47% said unacceptable.

The Journal/NBC News survey was conducted April 10-14 and included 310 Republican primary voters. The margin of error for that group was plus or minus 5.57 percentage points.

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