Loud cries of protest broke out on the floor of the Republican National Convention Monday after GOP officials dismissed a last-ditch effort by anti-Donald Trump groups to force an embarrassing protest vote against the RNC and the presumptive presidential nominee.
A group of anti-Trump delegates submitted signatures to try to force a vote on the rules of the convention — a procedure normally done quietly at the start of each convention.
The rules were adopted by voice vote shortly after 4 p.m., then after frantic protests, a second voice vote was taken as Trump opponents shouted repeatedly for a roll call vote. The convention chairman then said there were not enough signatures to force the roll call.
Opponents of the rules package were backed by Ted Cruz allies including Virginia’s Ken Cuccinelli and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. They have been fighting to change the procedures for the 2020 presidential election, including trying to close primaries and caucuses from non-Republicans. Such a move would presumably help a party favorite like Cruz, who lose to the outsider Trump this year.
Lee told CNN’s Dana Bash the protest wasn’t about sour grapes.
“No, absolutely not, this is about the rules of the convention,” Lee said, as protesters shouted around him. “This is about the future of the party… This is not about Donald Trump, this is about having a good, fair rules process.
“We are always looking, as conservatives, to make sure that our rules are good to make sure we have good candidates in the future. I would like to have conservative candidates in the future. This is not about this year, it’s not about any one year,” he said.
Lee said the fight doesn’t demonstrate the party is divided.
“It says there is an honest disagreement about the rules and we want vote on the rules. That’s all it says,” Lee said. “They are people who are trying to make this a simple debate about people who favor Donald Trump and those who don’t… We knew it was going to be close.”
The move was an attempt to allow Trump opponents a platform to argue against the presumptive nominee and the Republican National Committee, who have worked together to stamp down any move to somehow block the billionaire from winning the nomination and change the rules for the 2020 election.
The rules package maintains that delegates must remain bound to their particular candidate and cannot vote their “conscience.” Should delegates become unbound, it in theory could mean Trump doesn’t win on the first ballot.
It is unlikely the rules package would have been rejected in a roll call vote, but a Trump staffer said its war room anticipated it could receive roughly 600 votes — well short of the 1,237 votes needed — which would be a strong protest vote.
After the voice vote adopting the rules was successful, members of the Colorado delegation walked out in protest as they called for a roll call vote.
“Overwhelmingly the floor was flooded with people who are upset with the way the rules were handled, said Regina Thomson, Ted Cruz’s state director and Colorado delegate and executive director of Free the Delegates. “They want a roll call vote and apparently the leadership just steamrolled right through the fact that the whole place was calling for a roll call vote.”
SOURCE: Tal Kopan and Tom LoBianco