David Bossie, president of Citizens United, talked about the possibility of an open Republican National Convention with SiriusXM host Stephen K. Bannon of Breitbart News Daily on Monday morning.
Bossie agreed with projections that Donald Trump was likely to fall short of the 1,237 committed delegates needed to win the first round of balloting at the convention, and the shortage was likely to be too much for Trump to overcome with pre-convention negotiations.
“Donald Trump’s problem is that the insidious nature of the Establishment, that is going on in state conventions across the country, is that they are putting in delegates who, yes, will be bound to Donald Trump on that first ballot, if that state goes for Donald Trump on election day. But they are putting in people who will not be with Donald Trump on the second ballot or the third ballot,” he said.
As Bannon explained, that’s “insidious” because these delegates wouldn’t necessarily be voting for the other primary front-runner, Senator Ted Cruz.
“We as Americans, and as conservatives, who want either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz — I’m happy with either, but if you are for one of them, you have to make sure that the delegates that are going from your state are committed to one or the other, and they will not change the rules,” Bossie agreed.
The rules, as currently written, would prevent the Republican Party from inserting new candidates in the second or subsequent rounds of balloting, but those rules might be changed by the Rules Committee in the week before the GOP convention.
“There’s a hundred people on that Rules Committee, and those hundred people could vote, if they are the wrong hundred, to change the rules,” he warned. “They could change the rules to open the convention to someone other than Cruz or Trump.”
Such a change would be necessary to allow Ohio Governor John Kasich to compete in the convention, since he won’t come close to satisfying the current requirements for appearing on any convention ballot, even though he has not dropped out of the race. Bossie called Kasich the “face of the Establishment,” and said it was obvious from the comments of Kasich surrogate John Sununu on Breitbart News Daily last Wednesday that Kasich was hanging on because he hoped the rules would be modified to let him compete at the convention.
“I don’t talk to Kasich, but I do respect him. He’s a very smart guy,” Bossie said. “There must be people telling him that if you get out of the race, it’s virtually impossible for you to be the nominee. If you stay in the race, maybe there’s the one percent chance that the rules get changed, and it’s not some ‘outsider,’ but it’s anybody who’s currently running.”
However, Bossie said that the full convention would have to vote on any proposed rule changes before they went into effect, whereas Sununu thought the rule blocking Kasich was a relic of the 2012 election — written primarily to keep Ron Paul’s delegates from causing trouble at the convention — and would be easily waved aside.
“The only way for the rules to change is for the full convention to vote on them,” Bossie argued. “The delegates — the Cruz delegates, the Trump delegates — have to vote to approve that. And even if, like I was saying earlier, some of those delegates are truly not Trump or Cruz delegates, there has to be a majority willing to change the rules in order to do it. And if that does not happen, then either Trump or Cruz will be the nominee. That’s the ball we all have to keep our eye on.”
Bossie saluted Ted Cruz for moving aggressively to get his own delegates into place, even in states where those delegates are legally bound to vote for Trump on the first convention ballot. He predicted the Cruz strategy, which has some similarities to Barack Obama’s organization in the 2008 campaign, would become the standard for future Republican campaigns.
“Ted Cruz is out-organizing, out-maneuvering, and just quite frankly out-smarting the Trump operation, at literally every single turn,” Bossie declared. “I love Donald Trump, I know him very well, but this is not anything that doesn’t come, really, from him. It is how he wanted to run his campaign. He wanted to run a different kind of campaign. And he didn’t understand — I don’t believe for a minute that he understood the intricacies of the rules, how delegates actually were committed to the convention by the states. And I think that’s coming back now to haunt him.”
Bossie thought it would be “virtually impossible” for Trump to turn his delegate situation around now, even with the late addition of strategist Paul Manafort to his campaign.
“Let me give you an example of Louisiana,” said Bossie. “There were ten, I believe it’s ten, delegates elected, that are uncommitted delegates – that Trump thought, because he won Louisiana and in such a big fashion, that those should be ten delegates for him. That’s kind of logical, right? If you’re running a logical campaign.”
“Well, the problem is, logic doesn’t have anything to do with this,” he continued, noting that Trump has been saying he might actually sue Louisiana for sending those uncommitted delegates to the convention. “I’m getting calls from Louisiana, from friends of mine, saying, ‘Why would he be doing that?’ Because all he is doing is alienating those ten delegates, who are going to come – some of them may be for Trump. It’s the fundamentals of this business he is missing.”
Bannon pointed out that Trump’s failure to understand the fundamentals of politics cut against his electability argument in the general election, since he would be facing a Clinton apparatus that understands those fundamentals very well indeed.
“That’s right,” Bossie agreed. “Amongst conservatives, we want to win. Along the spectrum of conservatives, and conservative leaders, some are for Trump, some are against Trump, and some are very against Trump. But at the end of the day, we all want to beat Hillary Clinton. I’m concerned that because Trump has run a different kind of campaign – and those were his words – over the last year, that that’s going to come back to haunt him.”
He observed that most campaigns draw in talented people from each state, turning them into enduring elements of the campaign team long after the state primary is over – which is, among other things, very useful for the sort of convention “delegate wrangling” Cruz is currently doing so well at.
“The Trump people, as you can see in the press, those people are being let go, because they don’t want to continue to pay them,” Bossie explained. “They’re trying to run an efficient campaign. The problem is, you don’t have the manpower, the muscle, to continue. As you see, some of these states, even though they had their elections 30 days ago, or 45 days ago, some of those delegates are still in play – and if you don’t have your machine in place, Ted Cruz is kicking your butt across the country right now.”
He noted that although Trump’s campaign has lately been portraying Cruz’s delegate hunt as an unusual or somehow dishonest practice, previous candidates such as Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan also wooed uncommitted delegates before the convention. It’s a game Trump could be playing as well, since Bossie noted that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club is a “big place,” where delegates could be “sitting on the beach” with their families, reflecting on Donald Trump’s warm hospitality as they prepared for those crucial convention votes.
Of course, no candidate is likely to be one hundred percent successful at rallying uncommitted delegates to his banner. That’s why Bossie thought Trump’s 50 to 100 delegate shortfall was likely to be insurmountable.
“I gotta tell you, I think Donald Trump must have 1,237, on the first ballot, in order to be the nominee,” he declared. “The Establishment is putting people in those places, where they will be for Trump because they will be legally obligated to be for Trump, on that first ballot. But on the second ballot, they will be for someone else. And that’s where we need to make sure, as conservatives, that the Establishment does not change the rules. Because if the rules stand, if we play by the rules in place today, either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will be the nominee, and that is what needs to happen.”
Bossie stressed that rules changes to allow Kasich to compete as an Establishment champion from the convention floor, or perhaps even allow a completely new name like House Speaker Paul Ryan on the ballot, would have to be made before the convention began, so watching the battle over the rules should grant a preview of subsequent Establishment strategy. He cautioned listeners not to underestimate the Establishment’s knowledge of the delegates, and its ability to quietly get a large number of them on board with whatever rules changes it desires.
However, he thought the Establishment’s influence might stop well short of taking the nomination completely away from Trump and Cruz, speculating that the growing effort to tout Ryan’s leadership credentials might be part of a bid to insert him as the vice-presidential candidate for Trump or Cruz. He advised Republican voters to exert their influence on the remaining primary races, to make sure the Establishment can’t force its own candidate onto the ballot.
“You can still have an impact. If you are involved at all in the state party politics, who is going to be elected as delegates, you can make your voice heard, and make sure people who are going to support Cruz or Trump get to be those unaffiliated delegates,” he urged. “That’s, at the end of the day, going to be where the rubber meets the road, in July at the convention.”
Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00AM to 9:00AM EST.
You can listen to the full interview with David Bossie below: