Politics & Policy

RNC’s Brokered-Convention Talk Angers Grassroots Activists

Grassroots activists are not happy about the prospect of a brokered convention blocking the nomination of Donald Trump or another insurgent as the GOP’s 2016 standard-bearer.

“The Republican establishment is playing with fire if they take any action that is perceived to harm the winners of caucus and primary states,” FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon said in a Friday statement. “If that’s what they are planning on doing, they may inadvertently set the stage for independent presidential campaigns and further damage an already fractured relationship with many conservatives and Republican voters, which is why insurgent candidates are thriving in the first place.”

Perennial talk of a contested convention turned serious Thursday when the Washington Post revealed that party leaders discussed the prospect of a floor fight during a dinner earlier this week. The news frustrated activists who suspect GOP leadership will try to hijack the nominating process, but it comes as the continuing depth of the Republican field has also raised the possibility that no one will secure the nomination before the convention takes place.

Ben Carson, whose presidential bid has exceeded expectations despite a recent dip in the polls, attacked the Republican National Committee over the reported meeting.

“If it is correct, every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won’t stand for it,” Carson said Friday. “I assure you, Donald Trump won’t be the only one leaving the party.”

#share#RNC spokesman Sean Spicer downplayed the significance of the report. “A question was asked on whether we are ready [for a contested convention],” he told Politico. “[RNC Chairman Reince Priebus] acknowledged that if we got to that point we would be prepared. Our job is to prepare for a successful nomination process.”

That’s the right message for FreedomWorks. “We believe that party leaders should prepare for the possibility that no candidate will arrive in Cleveland with the delegate count to win the nomination,” Brandon said. “That does not mean they should be making plans or taking any steps that would thwart the will of the millions of Republican voters who will have participated in the nominating process before the convention.”

#related#Republicans haven’t started a convention without a presumptive nominee since Ronald Reagan tried to upset President Gerald Ford in 1976. Jeb Bush’s team has been preparing donors for a similar scenario for months. “They’re certainly [relaying] that message in their fundraising community,” one person who has attended Bush fundraisers told NR in May. “To donors, they’re trying to manage expectations [by] saying, ‘Our objective here is to make it to the convention, not necessarily to win the first primaries.’”

Bush wouldn’t be the only candidate to show up at the convention loaded for bear. “It’s a deep field, without an overall front-runner; super PACs can keep candidates standing past their normal expiration date; and (perhaps most importantly) the calendar creates incentives for candidates to stay in as long as they can,” writes Real Clear Politics elections analyst Sean Trende. “After the early proportional representation states is a treasure-trove of winner-take-all states, which could catapult an also-ran to first place. Again, this isn’t more likely than not to occur, but it’s still the most likely single outcome, in my book.”

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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