This is where the notion of finding another Republican nominee other than the top two contenders gets dicey. Yes, we understand that if on the second or third ballot the rules were tweaked to allow candidates with less than a majority in eight states, other candidates could come into the mix. But with that would come huge barriers:
1. News reports confirm that the Ted Cruz camp has been very successful in getting favorable delegates selected at the state and local levels. This is meant to pry delegates away from Donald Trump beginning with the second ballot. But it also makes it difficult to pry them away from Cruz thereafter. It is hard to imagine a situation in which Cruz delegates he personally selected go elsewhere for the good of the party. It is far more likely that Trump delegates would eventually be worn down.
2. If we get to the fifth, sixth, seventh ballot and beyond, then what would be the process for finding that white knight? It was hard enough to come up with partial consensus on two candidates who won millions of votes. There will be Mitt Romney fans, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) advocates and backers of other candidates, but who would want to undertake the ordeal of winning over the convention, let alone an entire party who did not vote for him?
3. Let’s say a new candidate did emerge from the convention. It is July, and such a candidate has no campaign operation, no advisers, no money beyond what he gets from the Republican National Committee, and no active super PAC. How exactly would this work out against a fully staffed, fully funded Hillary Clinton campaign?
It is for these reasons that there is less than meets the eye when it comes to delegate sovereignty. It remains a possibility that someone could emerge from this process other than Trump or Cruz, but it would be highly unlikely and problematic (which is not a unique phenomenon in this election).
That does not mean that Republicans of good conscience have no other avenue. There remains the potential for a third candidate. Ryan, as speaker, could not very well fill that role, but Romney, Mitch Daniels (now a university president) and retired general Jim Mattis are all possibilities.
Rather than agonizing on how to introduce another candidate to the GOP in Cleveland this summer and conniving to manipulate the rules (which will breed resentment), Republicans in the #NeverTrump club should focus now on depriving Trump of 1,237 delegates.
If need be, they also can proceed down a parallel track. That requires addressing issues of ballot access, funding and staffing (all the issues in No. 3 above), but the candidate would not be accused of stealing the nomination. So long as it remains possible that Trump gets the nomination, the #NeverTrump crowd will need to work within the party and simultaneously work on an alternative to the party. Scheming to pull off a switcheroo at the convention, however, seems a poor use of time.