The conventional wisdom seems to be that if no candidate goes into the GOP convention in July with a majority of committed delegates, the contested convention that would result would resemble the panic scenes from the movie Airplane!
Hugh Hewitt has a terrific piece up at the Washington Examiner about how the back room dealings could work, a fictional scenario in which John Kasich makes a case to be the nominee with Ted Cruz as his running mate, after several ballots have left no one with a majority of support. But I don’t believe Kasich can achieve any level of support at the convention that would put him ahead of Cruz. Or of Rubio, for that matter, who could end up a player if the Ohio governor continues to misstep.
I think it’s far more likely that Sen. Ted Cruz will get the support he needs once delegates are unbound, and the second ballot is cast. And I’m not among the senators’ biggest fans, as those who’ve read my posts here know. I could have even supported a Mitt Romney nomination at a contested convention.
But I believe support is coalescing around Cruz as the not-Trump candidate. Cruz supporters are fired up. They’ll make sure they become delegates, even if they have to hold their noses and vote for another candidate on the first ballot, if that’s what their state rules tell them to do. I could easily see a second ballot giving Cruz the majority of votes…even a super-majority.
There are a lot of Republicans really, really angry at Donald Trump. They’re itching to show him he was never going to get a majority of Republicans’ support, and he acted as spoiler to the real conservatives in the race. Some of those delegates might have reservations about Cruz’s ability to win against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. But at least they know Cruz is a bona fide conservative, a good debater, and a decent spokesperson for the conservative cause. And, yes, there is the possibility he could win. Despite my previous antipathy, I’d have no trouble voting for him now.
Trump and his supporters will cause a fuss, for sure. He’ll make his usual arguments — that “Lyin’ Ted” didn’t even get as many delegates as he did (assuming that’s true by the time the primaries are over), so doesn’t that say the majority of Republicans want him even less than they want Trump? And he’ll scream “unfair, corrupt, unjust, establishment blah blah blah” til the cows come home.
Cruz’s advocates will have to be prepared with counter arguments. There are good ones to be made. Just as I pointed out earlier when I wrote a piece saying I could support Romney, the primary voters have sent a clear message: they don’t want Trump; they want a true Republican (as the others in the race were).
Trump has lately helped make the case for this argument. Witness his ridiculous lack of understanding of the abortion issue, of what it means to be pro-life, when he told Chris Matthews he could see punishing women who seek abortions. That was a caricature of the pro-life position, which led one wag to wonder if, perhaps, Trump saw himself as the woman Nathan Lane was pretending to be in this scene from The Birdcage, where Gene Hackman plays a conservative senator, and Nathan Lane is a gay man pretending to be a woman at a dinner party with his partner, Robin Williams:
GENE HACKMAN: Of course, its’ very wrong to kill an abortion doctor. Many pro-lifers, I don’t agree with them, but many sincerely feel that if you stop the doctors, you stop the abortions.
NATHAN LANE: Well, that’s ridiculous. The doctors are only doing their jobs. If you’re going to kill someone, better to kill the mothers. That will stop them.
ROBIN WILLIAMS: May I see you a moment, dear?
NATHAN LANE: I know, I know. If you kill the mother, the fetus dies, too. But the fetus is going to be aborted anyway, so why not let it go down with the ship?
ROBIN WILLIAMS: I really must see you now.
What’s scary is how easily you can imagine Donald Trump making any of those arguments.
There’s a list of issues like this that an articulate Cruz advocate could discuss, demonstrating Trump’s lack of conservative bona fides, how he has certainly made a terrific Democratic mole bollixing up the Republican primary season, now, hasn’t he?
I can envision who that Ted Cruz advocate would be: Carly Fiorina. She’s already shown she is willing to make passionate, hard-hitting speeches, and that she’s willing to go where others follow. I can even see her mocking Trump if he suggests a third-party run — if he does that, she could say, he’ll just show the world what we’ve all known all along: The man is a big, fat loser. With tiny hands.
I look forward to hearing her make the case for Cruz. And after she does, put away the popcorn, because I think the show will be over. Ted Cruz will get the votes.
Libby Sternberg is a novelist.