I checked with some friends who are deeply involved with convention politics … the Rules Committee meets in April and can change any rule they want, including the rule that candidates must win a majority of delegates in eight states in order to be nominated at the convention. If the candidate does not hit that threshold, then none of delegates representing that candidate will have their votes counted.
The GOP establishment controls the Rules Committee, so what happens in that committee is key to what will happen at the convention. If they drop the eight-state threshold rule, that means they will be setting up a floor strategy to draft someone other than Trump to be the nominee. Morton Blackwell, the nation’s leading guru on convention rules and a fellow conservative, outlines the four scenarios by which the rules can be changed:
First, the RNC Standing Committee on Rules could adopt changes, including once again reversing itself and restoring legitimate Delegates’ right to have their votes counted – regardless of how well the candidate performed.
Second, at the Convention in Cleveland itself, the delegates present can amend the report of its Standing Committee on Rules. [Note: this could lead to a floor battle over this rule.]
Third, the Convention Rules Committee [Note: this is different from the RNC Standing Committee on Rules], comprised of two Delegates, a man and a woman elected by each state’s Delegation, can and always does make amendments to the proposed new rules package it receives from the Republican National Committee.
Fourth, when the report of the Convention Rules Committee is received by the national convention, the convention itself can adopt new amendments, but only if the convention receives a minority report signed by at least 25% of the members of its Convention Rules Committee.
But most conservatives will want this rule changed since Cruz may not meet the eight-state threshold. If both the Cruz forces (most of the conservative movement) and the establishment wing of the party want this rule changed, it may actually happen. At the last Rules Committee meeting in January, Morton try to change this rule and his motion was defeated. But bear in mind, at that time, most members of the Rules Committee assumed that an establishment candidate would be the frontrunner by now and would have the necessary delegates to win outright at the convention. Three months later, things have drastically changed. This rule, by the way, was forced on the party by Romney and had never existed prior to his candidacy, so the main argument that will be used is that the rules are being changed back to what they always were prior to Romney.
Baldwin is a former State Assemblyman from the San Diego area.