Republican leaders thought they'd put the prospect of convention chaos behind them weeks ago. But in the GOP right now, the past isn't over. It isn't even past.
"Dozens of Republican convention delegates are hatching a new plan to block Donald Trump at this summer’s party meetings, in what has become the most organized effort so far to stop the businessman from becoming the GOP nominee," reported Ed O'Keefe. "...a growing group of anti-Trump delegates are convinced that enough like-minded Republicans will band together in the next month to change party rules and allow delegates to vote for whomever they want, regardless of who won state caucuses and primaries."
You may be more familiar with the general idea as the Cruz/Kasich/Kristol Memorial Strategy that was floated — first somewhat confidently, then hopefully, then a bit desperately — multiple times this spring. The difference this time: the people doing the floating are actually in a position to turn it into reality.
"The new push is being run by the only people who can actually make changes to party rules, rather than by pundits and media figures who have been pining for a Trump alternative. Many of the delegates involved supported Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the primary but say they are not taking cues from any of Trump’s vanquished opponents.
"'This literally is an ‘Anybody but Trump’ movement,' said Kendal Unruh, a Republican delegate from Colorado who is leading the campaign. 'Nobody has any idea who is going to step in and be the nominee, but we’re not worried about that. We’re just doing that job to make sure that he’s not the face of our party.'
For the record: the RNC is dismissing the chatter.
Regarding all of the discussion about the RNC Rules committee - see attached pic.twitter.com/RXNZSqbm0b— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) June 17, 2016
Trump's response to that response was probably right on the money, no matter which way you think this thing might shake out:
The convention in Cleveland will be amazing! https://t.co/NlF2Gcr915— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 17, 2016
HOW WE GOT HERE: It isn't just the controversy over Trump's recent remarks about Judge Curiel, or Orlando, or President Obama. It isn't just the public barbs he's been throwing at GOP leaders, as the ties between his campaign and the RNC show fresh signs of strain. It isn't just the apparent willingness to consider additional gun control efforts to combat terrorism, among other policy fronts where he's bucked conservative orthodoxy. It isn't just a campaign that can't seem to achieve liftoff, featuring a ground game that is still, on several key metrics, close to non-existent — and a candidate who often seems a bit detached from the action, and says (in mid-June!) he hasn't "started yet." It's all of those things put together, plus the collective trauma experienced by establishment Republicans who've spent the past few weeks dodging news cycle surprises delivered nearly every day by their presumptive nominee.
The GOP should take a careful look at where things stand right now, says Chris Cillizza — and then calmly, logically, thoughtfully weigh whether now might be a good time to start panicking, with a looming Trump nomination that lies "somewhere between a stone-cold loser and a long-shot gamble." Of course, it isn't just the top of the ticket: The GOP Senate majority is in greater risk than ever before. And the balance of power in the House may be more competitive than it's been since Republicans last took control of the chamber.
Speaking of the Rules Committee:
Enid Mickelsen just named chair of GOP convention rules panel. Here's what she told Salt Lake Tribune two weeks ago. pic.twitter.com/1MnVkdLvyl— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) June 17, 2016
(There's also a Rules Committee co-chair: Romney confidant Ron Kaufman.)
The biggest Republican problem of all may be the fact that there are no good solutions — just varying degrees of bad, featuring pain that ranges from "night after next door neighbor brought home a new subwoofer" trauma all the way up to "dental surgery with no anesthesia" awful.
"The problem for Republican elected officials who worry that Trump's tanking numbers might — if they continue to plunge — cost the party much more than the White House is that they have no other options. Trump won the Republican primaries fair and square. He got 13 million votes. He competed in all 50 states. There's no debate that he is the one candidate (out of the 17 who ran) that Republican base voters want as their nominee.
"If his polling slide continues, Trump could well be an anchor that Republicans in office across the country simply can't shed — even though they know it will drag them to the bottom."
Which brings us to our Awkward Trump-Related Hill Encounter of the day, via Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a member of the presumptive nominee's Hill Leadership Committee, as reported by Mike DeBonis and reprinted here:
“What I’m done with is trying to articulate or explain or answer for what Donald Trump says,” Hunter said. “I think he’ll be a great president. I think he’ll make good decisions on the economy, on the border, on national security, but it doesn’t mean we endorse what he says. I think what he says and what he’ll do are two different things.”
The Post reporter asked him, “So what should we believe when he says something? What should we believe when it comes out of his mouth?”
“What he said,” Hunter replied.
“But you just said you don’t necessarily believe what he says is what he’s going to do,” said the reporter.
“Right,” Hunter said. “True. But him talking about things and saying things about things is different than him saying what he’s going to do. I think he’ll do what he says he’s going to do. I’m not trying to parse words; I think he’ll do what he says he’s going to do. But he says things about things that I don’t endorse, and I’m not going to try to articulate for him.”
The reporter returned to the Wednesday comments: “When he tells leaders of Congress to be quiet, that would seem to indicate that that’s what he’s going to do as president — basically, expect Congress to fall in line and don’t give me any guff, and I’m the boss here.”
“You’ve got it,” Hunter said. “You have a good translation of it.”
“Isn’t that a problem, though?” [Fox reporter Chad] Pergram interjected, citing the release that very morning of a House Republican proposal to assert congressional power during the next presidency.
“Yeah, it’s not my job to answer for Donald Trump,” Hunter said. “Really. I’m not even a surrogate. I’m just an endorser.”
With that, Hunter walked back toward the floor to vote.
POST-CAMPAIGN CAMPAIGN UPDATE:
(Above: the Sanders message to supporters last night.)
The Sanders movement regrouped at the McCormick Center in Chicago today, the day after the Vermont senator's video address to supporters laying out his top priorities.
"The first plans for a post-primary summit were hatched in September 2015, when hopes for Sanders's presidential bid were still relatively modest. National Nurses United, the first union to endorse the campaign, saw the summit as a way to gather Sanders supporters and other elements of the left after what looked likely to be an easy Hillary Clinton victory," reports Dave Weigel. Unsurprisingly, "...the epic length of the primaries has changed the tone of the summit."
There was no focus on claiming the nomination. And "little talk of ditching the Democratic Party: Jill Stein, who is expected to be the Green Party's nominee for president, was not invited to the conference.
"There is a debate over whether Sanders should encourage his supporters to back Clinton, or whether an 'anti-Trump' movement would be a distraction. And on Thursday night, after organizers watched Sanders's speech, they celebrated by declaring their solidarity with his still-running campaign.
"The room was silent, because we realized what a profound movement it was," National Nurses United's Rose DeMoro told Weigel. "Then we sang karaoke. The first group was the VA nurses, and they sang 'My Guy.' You know: 'Nothing you can say will take me away from my guy.' And the next group sang 'Don’t Stop Believing.' It was heartwarming."
Meanwhile, at the post-primary Bernie supporter conference pic.twitter.com/1mDEHgouuf— daveweigel (@daveweigel) June 17, 2016
Bernie Sanders himself remains focused on the Democratic convention, though he's currently heading into the event with less leverage than he had when the month began. Like his supporters, he's no longer focused on the nomination; he may even endorse Clinton before Philadelphia (although: there are some pretty solid reasons he might not want to.)
—#Veepstakes watch: Elizabeth Warren came to visit Hillary Clinton's Brooklyn headquarters today. (Clinton herself wasn't there.)
—2016 alum update: Ted Cruz is back to endorsing anti-establishment Senate candidates, favoring Darryl Glenn in Colorado over the party leaders' favorite. And while Marco Rubio still hasn't officially said he's running for reelection, Democrats have decided to go ahead and launch an attack ad anyway, 'Failed Us,' targeting him over missed Senate votes. (Fun #stat! One senator/2016 candidate has actually missed every vote since January. And it isn't Marco Rubio.)
—This weekend, Trump will be fundraising at the former home of 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, whose widow said the late Arizona senator would be "appalled that his home was being used for that purpose." (The host of the fundraiser responded by saying he was "not sure that Donald Trump is conservative, but he’s who our nominee is,” and downplayed Susan Goldwater Levine's opinion because “she was [Goldwater's] second wife; she’s not his first wife. So she came along later in life.")
(The party healing continues.)
—Since retro #NeverTrump strategies are suddenly a thing again: how about a fresh third party push? This one with a bipartisan twist (they'd like to take Clinton down too.)
—If you, like us, are keeping a list of Republicans who are thumbs-down on joining the GOP ticket or attending this year's convention, 1) thank you for validating our pastime, and 2) you can add Condoleezza Rice to both lists.
List of prohibited items inside the GOP convention perimeter pic.twitter.com/RUW2IJOZVJ— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) June 17, 2016
(If you're headed to Cleveland, expect a lively convention — but leave your whole fruit and selfie sticks at home.)
—We know Donald Trump is a man who loves his polls. We also know that, as a novice politician, he hasn't had a ton of practice interpreting survey results (#FlashbackFriday to the time he excitedly tweeted a poll suggesting he held a slim, within the sampling error two-point edge over Hillary Clinton. In Arizona.) And we realize he's had a tough string of recent national polls, so he may think any survey suggesting he's competitive with the presumptive Democratic nominee may be worth highlighting. Anyway, those were the theories we came up with in our hunt for the explanation for his most recent poll tweet.
Spotted at Trump rally in Woodlands: Same people from Cruz super PAC who sold "Cruz 45" jerseys at his events. Now they just say "USA 45."— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) June 17, 2016
—Campaign vendor #protip, just for future reference: if thousands of people show up for a Trump rally on a sweltering Texas afternoon, they may or may not be interested in Trump-themed merchandise that, say, depicts the candidate as a Marvel Comics super hero...
For sale at Donald Trump's rally in Houston: pic.twitter.com/7esZoborcf— Jenna Johnson (@wpjenna) June 17, 2016
...but they will definitely be very interested in avoiding heat stroke. You may want to plan accordingly.
As hundreds wait to get into Donald Trump's rally near Houston, there are tons of tshirt vendors -- and no one selling water.— Jenna Johnson (@wpjenna) June 17, 2016
(while we're talking "stuff Trump rallies could use more of"...there's also this):
They've only got four metal detectors working and thousands upon thousands of bamas still in line 5 minutes before trump is to start— john r stanton (@dcbigjohn) June 17, 2016
—Finally, some great weekend Trump longreads: Robert O'Harrow and Shawn Boburg explore the Roy Cohn-Donald Trump dynamic. And Tom Hamburger, Rosalind Helderman and Michael Birnbaum take a closer look at Trump's ties to Russia and flattery of Vladimir Putin — who had more nice things to say about the mogul today in Moscow. (These stories are drawn from reporting for the longest of Trump longreads: the Post's upcoming biography "Trump Revealed," scheduled for release August 23 — in the meantime, you can get an advance peek at some of the reporting here.)
YOUR DAILY TRAIL PIT STOP: You may have already seen 8th grader Jack Aiello's graduation speech, featuring uncanny impressions of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Attention parents: per Jack, this is what happens when you expose young, impressionable minds to presidential debates and press conferences. It is adorable. (Of course, you also run the risk that they might grow up to be campaign reporters, like we did. So it all depends on your innate level of risk aversion.)