Stoddard: The great Trump rebellion

Stoddard: The great Trump rebellion
© Getty Images

A reined-in Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE delivered a focused and forward-looking address via teleprompter Wednesday that lacerated Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe real reason Biden is going to the COP26 climate summit Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 MORE and gave Republicans hope the presumptive GOP presidential nominee has found a message and will stay on it. 

The speech was designed, in part, to halt a rebellion that would free delegates to abandon him at his nominating convention next month in Ohio. It is unlikely to stop the revolt — but no matter, the revolt is unlikely to stop Trump.

ADVERTISEMENT

Fueled by Trump’s campaign meltdown, as well as news the candidate faces a staggering cash disadvantage in a race against Clinton, Dump Trumpers are eyeing a new CNN poll showing 48 percent of Republicans would favor replacing the billionaire. Trump has not topped 40 percent in recent averages of polling on RealClearPolitics and has frightened party operatives not only with his controversial statements but a sparingly staffed campaign largely absent from the swing states he will need to win in November.

Organizers now claim more than 400 delegates could switch their vote from Trump on the first ballot. The likely vehicle for this coup would be the elimination of Rule 16, which was adopted just four years ago at the nominating convention of Mitt Romney, binding delegates to the victor of their states’ primaries or caucuses. They could also alter the rules to require the nominee to reach a supermajority of delegates on the first ballot and hope Trump would fall short. Kendal Unruh, a delegate from Colorado and Rules Committee member who supported Texas Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate confirms four Biden ambassadors after delay Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it MORE’s bid, told The Hill this week that she will introduce a “conscience clause” proposal that would free delegates to vote however they choose.

Yet new polling shows that senators running for reelection in battleground states won twice by President Obama are faring better in recent weeks — even those who have worked hard to distance themselves from Trump. And there is also no current plan, should such an unprecedented upheaval succeed, to put the party back together and unite around a new nominee, as there is no consensus candidate. Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer worked to tamp down speculation last week with a tweet calling the protest effort a “media creation” and stated that “there is no organized effort, strategy or leader of this so-called movement.”

Still, there are clear hints of daylight — and exasperation — among leaders who are supporting Trump, who have no idea what he or his campaign will do between now and July 21 when the party is slated to nominate him in Cleveland. For example, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.) told “Meet The Press” last weekend that though he endorsed the likely nominee, he doesn’t expect his colleagues to. 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who hails from the same state as both the Speaker and the chairman of the RNC, Reince Priebus, also backed Ryan’s waiver as “legitimate” for those within the GOP who cannot support Trump, saying delegates should “vote the way they see fit.” Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE (R-Tenn.) recently said, “we do not have a nominee until after the convention.” And the RNC made former Rep. Enid Mickelsen, a GOP party stalwart from Utah, which is a state Trump lost badly to Cruz, the co-chairwoman of the Rules Committee at the convention. She has criticized Trump.

Trump’s campaign reboot could succeed, funds could roll in, and momentum could build as the Republican Party preps for its convention. But some uprising is pretty much a promise at this point. Unruh, a lifelong Republican, sure didn’t sound like she will be changing her mind. She told The Hill, “you now have a potential nominee who wants to come in and destroy our party. ... If he is the face of conservatism, there is no Republican Party.”

Cleveland, here we come.

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.