Karl Rove is making sense.
In his Wall Street Journal column, Rove makes the mathematically accurate point that Donald Trump has no claim to the Republican nomination if he goes to the convention with only a plurality of delegates and not a majority.
A majority, The Donald said, is an “artificial number that was set by somebody.” But [the] rule that the Republican nominee must win a majority of the national convention has been in force for 160 years, since the party’s first convention in 1856 …
…After all, following Tuesday’s contests, Mr. Trump has received 37% of the votes so far. He has yet to break 50% in a single state. By the end of the primaries, most Republicans are likely to have voted for someone else. Would giving Mr. Trump the nomination “disenfranchise” them?
Trump is currently on pace to win 96 percent of the delegates he needs, just short of a majority. If that’s where he ends up, there will be enough “unbound” delegates so Trump could still secure a majority on the first ballot, or soon thereafter. Furthermore, as this National Review article explains, many Trump delegates will be party functionaries and not Trump loyalists, so they could abandon him after the first ballot.
If the anti-Trump majority wanted to band together and stop him, they would have the numbers, and the legitimacy, to do so.
The big question is whether they have the will to face down a demagogue threatening riots in defense of party principles and basic decency.
Rove’s plea is not shared by Republican voters, at least not yet. Sixty-three percent of them, in a Bloomberg poll, say a plurality winner should get the nomination. Presumably, those numbers could be moved if more party leaders amplified Rove’s argument.
But where’s the evidence that the #NeverTrump movement, percolating among some conservative activists, is reaching party leaders and, most importantly, those delegates? The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank recently called out Speaker Paul Ryan for wagging his finger at Trump, but stopping short of refusing to support him and organizing an effort to stop him. That seems to be the prevailing sentiment among Washington Republicans: much grinding of teeth of the idea of a Trump nomination, little effort to do anything about it.
If the Republican electorate assumes that a plurality is sufficient, Republican leaders are far less likely to risk blocking Trump when the whole world will be watching the Cleveland convention. If Republicans believe Trump should be stopped, they need to start laying the groundwork. Otherwise, they will be complicit in what Trump does to the Grand Old Party.