NOTE: Important update included at the end of the post.
The infamous Rule 40(b) has been swatted about like a flirtatious badminton bird, usually by know-nothing commentators and campaigns with absolutely no knowledge of what the rule actually means from a legal standpoint. But the way Rule 40(b) is currently stipulated, it means that Ted Cruz may be the ONLY candidate allowed on the ballot, and more specifically, Donald Trump would NOT meet the current standards stipulated by the rule.
Here is the complete rule extracted from the The Rules of the Republican Party (PDF) (highlights mine).
“Rule 40(b): Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight (8) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination. Notwithstanding any other provisions of these rules or any rule of the House of Representatives, to demonstrate the support required of this paragraph a certificate evidencing the affirmative written support of the required number of permanently seated delegates from each of the eight (8) or more states shall have been submitted to the secretary of the convention not later than one (1) hour prior to the placing of the names of candidates for nomination pursuant to this rule and the established order of business.
Holy snafu, Batman! The rule states that each candidate needs the “written support” from the actual majority of delegates themselves to maintain eligibility In short, even if Donald Trump has the binding majority of delegates, he may be hard-pressed from obtaining a majority of signatures from those states, or for that matter, from any other state where he currently doesn’t hold a binding majority.
In short, Ted Cruz will have the most, if not that actual majority, of states with delegates pledged or leaning toward him on the second or third ballot. This means that he could also conceivably have a majority (57 or more) of the delegates on the rules-making committee. If he does, then essentially only Ted Cruz-leaning delegates can mandate NO CHANGE to Rule 40(b) and enforce it to the letter of the law, which means that only Ted Cruz will be on the ballot.
This means that the only candidate on the ballot, first-round binding or otherwise, is Ted Cruz. No other candidate would be listed, therefore, no other candidate could qualify to become the Republican nominee.
Now, obvioiusly pandemonium will follow, and even conservatives such as myself may wince at the blatant, but legal, play that the Establishment originally cooked up to suppress insurgents like Ted Cruz (and Donald Trump), and throw every primary popular vote into the hopper. If Donald Trump has 1,237 bound votes by this time, undoubtedly he can probably sue and get a favorable verdict, even though the GOP is a private club. But if he doesn’t have 1,237 votes, then it would be a perfectly plausible effort.
Watch for the fireworks when the idiot class figures this out!
UPDATE: I myself don’t think this rule will be interpreted literally, but just wanted to highlight the utter banality of the pundit class when it comes to referencing Rule 40(b). I assume that even if the Cruz-leaning delegates control the rule-making process, they will adjust the stipulation so it’s not blatantly disassociating the popular voting results before a ballot is attempted.