If there is one thing Donald Trump hates, it’s a L-O-S-E-R.
As the firestorm over the testy billionaire’s harsh comments about the Gold Star parents of an Army captain killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq refuses to die down; as fat-cat donors shun him; and as the candidate himself begins rolling out the notion that the election will be rigged, a reasonable question to ask is: Will Trump fire himself?
Sure, it’s only August, and the trench warfare for the presidency traditionally doesn’t even begin until after Labor Day, but this time – as has been said ad nauseam – is different.
Just look at Trump’s towering problems:
- His overreaction to a speech at the Democratic National Convention by the father of Captain Humayun Khan – denouncing Trump for his plans to ban entry to the U.S. by Muslims from certain countries and for sacrificing nothing for his country – has led prominent fellow Republicans to record their outrage. Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham were especially critical, a GOP congressman from New York said he would vote for Hillary Clinton, and a well-regarded political strategist said she was leaving the party until it regains its senses. Yesterday the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) issued a statement saying it is appalled by Trump’s treatment of Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala Khan.
- The GOP’s biggest moneybags, Charles and David Koch, who once pledged to spend $800 million on this election, are treating Trump like a skunk at one of the lavish gatherings they hold for their network of the richest Republican donors. At the latest one in Colorado Springs on Sunday, with 400 donors in attendance, Charles Koch again refused to back Trump despite pressure from fellow billionaires; Koch reportedly convinced others to reverse course and withdraw their support.
- Estimates of Hillary Clinton’s post-convention bounce range from 3 points to 13 points, and the data gurus at the website FiveThirtyEight now put her chance of winning the presidency at 66.1 percent vs. Trump’s 33.9 percent.
At a rally in Ohio on Monday, Trump told supporters that he is hearing “more and more” that the fix is in for the election in November. And he told Fox commentator Sean Hannity, "I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.”
After railing to his angry audiences about a “rigged system” over the past year and always referring to his rival as “Crooked Hillary,” that seems like a logical progression – and also a convenient out should he decide he would rather end his candidacy than participate in a contest that he maintains won’t be fair.
So what would happen if Trump packed it in and went back to his tower on Fifth Avenue to plot his next reality TV show and tweet venom into the long night of his discontent?
According to Rule 9 – Filling Vacancies in Nominations” -- of the Rules of the Party on the GOP website:
“(a) The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise of the Republican candidate for President of the United States…as nominated by the national convention, or the Republican National Committee may reconvene the national convention for the purpose of filling any such vacancies.
“(b) In voting under this rule, the Republican National Committee members representing any state shall be entitled to cast the same number of votes as said state was entitled to cast at the national convention.
“(c) In the event that the members of the Republican National Committee from any state shall not be in agreement in the casting of votes hereunder, the votes of such state shall be divided equally, including fractional votes, among the members of the Republican National Committee present or voting by proxy.
“(d) No candidate shall be chosen to fill any such vacancy except upon receiving a majority of the votes entitled to be cast in the election.”
In other words, the GOP could convene another convention (unlikely), or it could ask state delegates to vote again. There has been a debate within the party about whether delegates can be “bound” to a candidate, but Rule 16 says they are.
What’s unclear is whether delegates choosing a Trump replacement would be bound to any of the primary candidates. It is also unclear how a replacement would be nominated.
But if Trump pulled the plug on his candidacy, it’s a sure bet there would be a rush to make House Speaker Paul Ryan the new GOP nominee for five reasons:
- He would attract all the donor money that Trump can’t.
- He’s done this before as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential running mate.
- He has a clear agenda – his “Better Way”—already in place.
- He is young, articulate, honest, telegenic and untainted by scandal.
- Most important, he could actually win.