NASHVILLE, Tennessee— Many of the 49 delegates in Tennessee who are pledged to either Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz will reportedly meet this month to seal a grassroots alliance in which they pledge their votes during any contested convention only to Trump or Cruz.
“My concern is that whether you are a Cruz delegate or a Trump delegate the establishment wants to nominate somebody like John Kasich who has no mathematical chance or moral authority to become the nominee because he has received so few votes in the primaries,” former State Rep. Joe Carr, an at-large Cruz delegate, tells Breitbart News. He adds:
As a result of this flagrant attempt at hijacking the process, I have contacted several of the Tennessee Trump and Cruz delegates in an effort to band together with the goal of making sure that the duly elected delegates have their voices heard according to current RNC Convention Rules. If the establishment persists in their recklessness attempt to steal the nomination from either Donald Trump or Senator Cruz, the Republican Party may not recover for a generation.
Others are also speaking out. “I am concerned about the future of our country and I believe a brokered convention will only mean that Hillary will win,” State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), an at-large Trump delegate, tells Breitbart News. “It’s time we all honor our commitment to the process and to the people who elected us. I will do whatever I can to work with all delegates to make sure that is done,” Beavers adds.
Carr and former Nashville talk radio host Steve Gill, also a Cruz delegate, intend to meet Trump delegate Beavers today to discuss the details of a bigger meeting next week to which all Trump and Cruz delegates elected in the March 1 Tennessee primary will be invited.
They tell Breitbart News they plan on pledging that their votes at the Republican National Convention will be for one of the two anti-establishment candidates, Trump or Cruz, on every ballot cast after their legal obligation to vote for the candidate for whom they pledged their commitment. The two outsider candidates have won more than 77 percent of all the Republican convention delegates selected in the state primaries and caucuses to date.
In Tennessee, all delegates are required by state election law to vote for their pledged candidate on the first two ballots. In many other states, that pledge is only for the first ballot.
Donald Trump handily won the March 1 GOP Presidential primary in Tennessee with 39 percent of the vote. Ted Cruz came in second with 25 percent, and Sen. Marco Rubio came in third with 21 percent.
Carr, who narrowly lost his challenge to incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander in the 2014 Tennessee GOP U.S. Senate primary, tells Breitbart News the planned meeting is an effort to head off the sort of brokered convention establishment Republicans, Fox News analysts, and former Red State Editor Erick Erickson are plotting.
“The Republican Establishment has to come to terms with the fact that an ‘outsider’ in Donald Trump or Senator Ted Cruz is going to be the nominee coming out of the Republican Party National Convention in July. The establishment’s efforts to fly in and save the Party from the grassroots conservatives is not unprecedented but just as unwelcome,” Carr tells Breitbart News.
“When I was a delegate at the 2012 RNC Convention in Tampa the Rules Committee changed the nominating process to keep Ron Paul off the convention stage. I haven’t forgotten,” he adds.
Cruz delegate Gill explains why any kind of “brokered convention” will not fly with Trump or Cruz delegates.
“It’s kind of like two teams battling in the Super Bowl, who after 60 minutes are bloodied, battered and bruised, and who have left their heart and soul on the field of battle. Under no circumstances will either team let some guy who didn’t play in the game show up in a spotless uniform at the victory celebration and hoist the MVP trophy over his head. It isn’t going to happen!” Gill, who was elected as an at-large state wide delegate, tells Breitbart News.
Tennessee has a long tradition of independent frontier populism, individualism, and support for limited government.
“The Tea Party limited government movement was here in Tennessee long before either Ted Cruz or Donald Trump thought about entering political life. In 1999, grassroots conservatives in Tennessee held a horn honking campaign that kept the establishment Republican Governor and establishment Democrat-controlled legislature from forcing a state income tax upon us,” Gill says.
“Then in 2009, many of those same horn honkers were instrumental in the Tea Party movement that has swept Republicans into Congress and created supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature here,” Gill adds.
“Today many of those same activists are the grassroots leaders that supported Trump and Cruz across the state and who are now the majority of the delegates that will go to the GOP convention to pick our nominee,” he notes.
“Regardless of which of these two candidates we support today, we have fought together in the past and I believe we will come together to support one of these two candidates in the Fall. I hope we can have a unified front of Trump and Cruz delegates to make it clear that one of these two men WILL be the nominee, and those thinking they can play on our passion for our candidates as an opportunity to slip in and put an establishment insider in the top spot in Cleveland are sadly mistaken,” Gill says.
Under the rules of the Tennessee Republican Party, delegates are pledged to candidates for the first two ballots. 33 of the state’s 58 delegates are pledged to vote for Donald Trump, while 16 are pledged to Cruz and 9 are pledged to Rubio.
14 of the state’s delegates were elected on a state wide at-large basis.
27 were elected from the state’s nine Congressional Districts.
3 are automatically selected: the Tennessee Republican Party Chairman, former State Rep. Ryan Haynes, and the two members of the Republican National Committee from Tennessee: John Ryder from Memphis, who currently also serves as general counsel to the Republican National Committee, and Peggy Lambert from the Knoxville area.
The remaining 14 delegates have not yet been selected, but will be appointed by the State Executive Committee of the Tennessee Republican Party on April 3, bringing the total number of delegates selected by or affiliated with the party apparatus to 17.
These 17 delegates will be obligated to cast their first two ballots in accordance with the state party rules and the primary results as follows: 10 for Trump, 5 for Cruz, 2 for Rubio.
On the third ballot at the convention, however, all 58 Tennessee will be free to vote for whom they choose.
The concern about the 17 delegates selected by or associated with the Tennessee Republican Party is they would be likely to support an establishment candidate who has yet to enter the fray on that potential third ballot at the convention, such as Speaker Paul Ryan or 2012 nominee and Trump critic Mitt Romney.
It is for this reason that Gill, Carr, and Beavers have scheduled the meeting of all Tennessee’s Trump and Cruz delegates prior to the end of March. They want the State Executive Committee to select Cruz or Trump supporters when it meets on April 3, rather than party hacks, who will bolt for an establishment annointed candidate on the third ballot.
According to the most recent delegate count at the New York Times, Trump has secured 676 delegates, 561 shy of the 1,237 he will need to win the nomination on the first ballot. Trump’s current count is 48 percent of the 1,413 delegates that have been won to date. In order to secure the 561 additional delegates needed to reach the 1,237 delegates needed to secure a first ballot nomination he will need to win 53 percent of the remaining 1,059 delegates available.
Cruz is in second place in the delegate count, with 410, or 29 percent of the delegates that have been won to date.
Between the two of them, Trump and Cruz have won 77 percent of the delegates selected so far.
Sen. Marco Rubio, who suspended his campaign after his second place finish in Florida, has 169. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, the third candidate remaining in the race, has 143. Other candidates who have left the race still have 15 delegates.
Cruz is 827 delegates shy of the 1,237 delegates he will need to win the nomination on a first ballot, which is 78 percent of the remaining delegates available.
At least Cruz has a mathematical possibility of winning the nomination on the first ballot.
Kasich, in contrast, is 1,094 delegates short of the 1,237 needed for a first ballot nomination, a number that is greater than the 1,059 delegates that remain.
“To be sure all this is moot if either Trump or Cruz reach 1,237 delegates before the convention,” former State Rep. Carr says.
“However if we as delegates arrive at the convention with Trump and Cruz separated by a couple hundred votes or less and neither candidate having reached the 1,237 milestone then it is up to the delegates to select their nominee not the Republican Party fat cats,” he notes.
“Regardless of the outcome one thing is sure the Republican Party will never be the same, and that is a good thing because we will have shown them that there are indeed things worth fighting for,” Carr concludes.
While Kasich and his spokespersons are counting on a second ballot or later victory at the convention, if the Tennessee grassroots pledge to Cruz or Trump spreads to other delegations, those ambitions would be thwarted, not only for Kasich but for any candidate other than Trump or Cruz.
The idea of a pre-convention grassroots pact between Cruz and Trump delegates to prevent an establishment candidate from stealing the nomination from either anti-establishment candidate may be starting in Tennessee, but it is likely to spread like wildfire to a number of other states.