A pair of articles are worth considering side by side today. The first comes via Politico and deals with the likelyhood that the GOP nomination race will reach its climax in a brokered convention:
Republicans are waging a shadow primary for control of delegates in anticipation of what one senior party official called “the white whale of politics”: a contested national convention.
The endgame for the most sophisticated campaigns is an inconclusive first ballot leading to a free-for-all power struggle on the floor in Cleveland.
“This is going to be a convention like I’ve never seen in my lifetime,” said veteran operative Barry Bennett, who managed Ben Carson’s campaign until December and is now advising Trump. “It’s going to be contentious from Day One.
The rules of the GOP convention require a candidate to carry a majority of delegates coming in to the convention to win the thing outright. Failing that, it becomes a high-stakes game of horse trading as leading candidates attempt to convince delegates to switch to their side. And given that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz seem in this thing for the long-haul, and that at least one establishment candidate (Rubio? Kasich?) is bound to tag along, there's a very good chance this race comes down to the wire.
Which leads to the second article, this time via Vox, where Jeff Stein notes that twice in as many days, Donald Trump has threatened to mount an independent campaign for the presidency if he feels that the party has slighted him:
In September 2015, Trump signed a pledge not to launch an independent bid for president if he lost the GOP primary. There was a catch: He added an exception to the pledge that made it invalid if the Republicans mistreated him — "a loophole so enormous it could mean anything Trump wants," as New York magazine's Jonathan Chait pointed out.The pressing question now is this: if Donald Trump heads into the GOP convention holding a plurality of delegates, but loses to Cruz, Rubio or Kasich through bartering and back-room deals, what comes next? Does Trump swallow his pride, shake hands with the other men in the room, congratulate them on a race well run and then go home? Or does he stage a press conference, point an accusatory finger at the RNC and announce that he will make good on his pledge to run as an independent as a result of what he decrees as the Republican Party's failure to abide by its pledge to treat him fairly?
Trump affirmed his willingness to exploit that crater-size exception during a town hall in South Carolina on Monday, in which he criticized the GOP for allegedly packing the last Republican debate audience with Trump opponents.
"The RNC better get its act together because, you know, I signed a pledge. The pledge isn’t being honored by the RNC," Trump said, according to ABC News. "I signed a pledge, but it’s a double-edged pledge. As far as I’m concerned, they’re in default on their pledge."