Is Reince Priebus encouraging a convention revolt against Donald Trump? His choice for chairman of the Rules Committee might lead one to think so.
Former Rep. Enid Mickelsen has been tapped to chair the all-important committee. Mickelsen was described by New York Daily News Washington Bureau Chief Cameron Joseph as a “Romney ally.” If true, it could mean that Priebus is putting his thumb on the scale to make it possible for rules changes that would free delegates to vote for someone else besides the presumptive nominee.
“My mindset is that we’re going to be fair, that people are going to be able to have an opportunity to make their proposals, debate their proposals or suggestions,” she said. “We are going to make this a fair and deliberative process. Nothing’s going to come out of this that’s been done by parliamentary trickery.”
The convention rules committee, a 112-member panel that consists of two delegates from every state and territory, is empowered to write the rules of the upcoming convention as well as set the framework of the GOP presidential nominating process that will take place in 2020.
Mickelsen herself has proposed dramatically altering the calendar of GOP primaries to include a new batch of early states, though she told POLITICO she won’t introduce that proposal as chair, leaving it to others instead.
The rules committee is likely to be the beginning of an effort by delegates opposed to Trump’s nomination to alter rules that would free delegates to choose someone else. Mickelsen said she was expecting spirited debate on those matters.
“There’s been a lot of speculation, there’s been a lot of discussion, but I’m confident in the end we’re going to make this a fair process,” she said. “Will it be lively? It probably will be at times.”
Mickelsen said she told Priebus months ago that she was open to chairing the rules committee if he wanted. She’s already the vice chair of the committee organizing the convention and as a result has been neutral in the presidential race so far — which she noted made her a good candidate for the rules post.
Let’s face it. If the party chairman were actually behind Trump, he would have appointed a loyalist who would have said “fairness be damned, stop this nonsense of trying to replace the guy who got the most votes.” The rebellion would be smashed before the convention even started.
Instead, Priebus has chosen someone who thinks that delegates choose the nominee — not voters.
[E]xisting nomination rules — including those that bind delegates to vote on the first ballot according to the results of their state primaries and caucuses, as well as those governing nominating a candidate not already in the race — can all be changed, said Utah Republican National Committeewoman Enid Mickelsen.
Mickelsen, a vice chairwoman of the national Republican Party committee responsible for putting on the convention, said it’s the delegates, not the party or the candidates, who control the nominating process.
You’ve got the new Rules Committee chair explicitly imagining scenarios in which delegates are freed to vote for someone other than the candidate who won their state primary. If nothing else, that proves Mickelsen’s willing to buck the will of the voters in certain circumstances. If you’re an anti-Trumper, that’s the sort of mindset you want to see in the new rules chief.
But wait. That wasn’t all Mickelsen said in the March story:
[I]f there’s not a clear winner in advance of the convention, “there are a lot of ifs,” she said. While she declined to comment on specific candidates, Mickelsen said what Romney “was saying was, ‘Let’s make it so no one gets a majority.’”
Choosing a candidate other than the front-runner in that situation is “not that you’re denying someone” a nomination or the will of the voters, she said. “If you don’t get a majority, you have to allow delegate flexibility.”
There’s no indication that Donald Trump had any input into the choice for rules committee chair. If he did, he almost certainly would have nixed Enid Mickelsen as a first choice.
In the end, it is delusional to think that even if the rules are changed, that delegates would vote to support someone besides Trump. There might be a defection here and there, but if there is any competence in the Trump campaign, they would have filled out the ranks of delegates with rock-solid, loyal supporters of the candidate. Floor managers would be on their toes to sniff out potential switchers and replace them with a more reliable supporter.
Ted Cruz was able to make some inroads at state conventions last month but not enough to flip the convention. Priebus and the NeverTrumpers can stop dreaming — Donald Trump will be the nominee of the Republican Party for president regardless of who chairs the Rules Committee.