Conservatives eye convention for stopping Trump
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A group of conservatives is eyeing an open convention this summer to rally support behind a candidate other than Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation MORE.

The group, led by commentator Erick Erickson, on Thursday called for a unity ticket to bring together parts of the Republican Party but said a convention fight may be needed to topple the controversial businessman.

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"If that unity ticket is unable to get 1,237 delegates prior to the convention, we recognize that it took Abraham Lincoln three ballots at the Republican convention in 1860 to become the party’s nominee and if it is good enough for Lincoln, that process should be good enough for all the candidates without threats of riots," Erickson said in a statement on behalf of the group after a gathering in Washington.

The group of conservative leaders and Republican operatives met for more than three hours on Thursday morning at the Army and Navy Club to discuss a way to thwart Trump's candidacy, including looking at the feasibility of launching a third-party challenge, according to The Washington Post.

The meeting was hosted by conservative activists Bill Wichterman and Bob Fischer, the Post reported. Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksArizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ariz.), a backer of Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDemocrats sharpen case on second day of arguments What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial Democrats' impeachment case lands with a thud with GOP — but real audience is voters MORE (R-Texas) and member of the House Freedom Caucus, briefly attended the meeting, according to multiple reports.

Erickson said his group is "committed to ensuring a real conservative candidate is elected."

"We believe that neither Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti defends Tulsi Gabbard's lawsuit against Hillary Clinton Trump to hold rally on eve of New Hampshire primary MORE nor Donald Trump, a Hillary Clinton donor, is that person," he said.

Trump has for several weeks called on Republicans to unite behind his White House bid and has sought in recent days to persuade lawmakers that they should back him now in order to avoid a contested convention in July, arguing that a united Republican Party would be best positioned to defeat the Democratic nominee.

But deep reservations within the GOP remain, and former rivals such as Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocrats hammer abuse of power charge, allege Trump put self over country Video becomes vital part of Democrats' case against Trump Nadler plays 1999 clip of Graham defining high crimes: 'It doesn't even have to be a crime' MORE (S.C.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenators press DHS over visa approval for Pensacola naval base shooter Lawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Apple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones MORE (Fla.) on Thursday signaled that they were warming to Cruz: Rubio called Cruz the "only conservative left in the race" and news emerged that Graham would raise funds for the Texas senator.

"We encourage all former Republican candidates not currently supporting Trump to unite against him and encourage all candidates to hold their delegates on the first ballot," Erickson's group said in its statement, adding that the conservatives will keep their "options open as to other avenues to oppose Donald Trump."