Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) rebuffed any speculation that he hopes to influence a prospective fight to pick a nominee at the Republican National Convention, in response to a report that a group of GOP leaders had discussed the possibility at an informal dinner meeting.
“It’s just a group that gets together periodically and has no particular agenda and certainly has no ability to control any particular outcome,” McConnell told Politico’s Mike Allen during a Playbook breakfast on Tuesday morning. “It’s supposed to be off-the-record and I was among those rather appalled to hear people who were in the meeting talking about it.”
A recent dinner meeting between McConnell, RNC chairman Reince Priebus, and several other GOP officials and operatives featured a discussion of whether the Donald Trump’s candidacy could force the party into picking the presidential nominee at the Republican convention in 2016. The report, issued from the Washington Post, caused consternation among grassroots activists who worried that establishment Republicans might try to control the nomination process.
McConnell suggested that conservatives have nothing to fear from him. “What delegates do at a convention is determined by state law, anyway, and I guess the only way [a contested convention] could happen would be if you went past one ballot because most states bind the delegates for the first vote,” he said. “So it’s an interesting thing to discuss but highly unlikely, I think.”
#share#There hasn’t been a contested GOP convention since 1976, when President Gerald Ford defeated Ronald Reagan’s primary challenge on the first ballot, but the depth of this year’s Republican field had some veteran operatives planning for such a fight — even before Donald Trump scrambled the political calculus.
“It’s certainly more likely now than it’s been in any prior election, going back to 1976,” Thor Hearn, the general counsel to George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, told National Review in May. “I don’t put it as a high likelihood, but it’s a much more realistic probability than it’s been in any recent experience.”