Republican National Committeeman Morton Blackwell wants rule reconsidered
Republican National Committeeman Morton Blackwell wants rule reconsidered | wikimedia, commons

Obscure RNC rule could lead to convention chaos

Seeking to calm fears that an arcane rule, which was approved in 2012 to help ensure Mitt Romney's nomination, could lead to chaos at the party's 2016 convention,

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus suggested a rule change was inevitable.

GOP activists, some of whom have endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for the nomination, point to "Rule 40," one of many rules adopted at the 2012 convention, as source of potential problems if no one arrives at the party's convention in Cleveland this July without the 1,237 delegates needed to win on the first ballot.

Under Rule 40, only those candidates who command a majority of convention delegates in eight states can win the Party's presidential nomination. The rule was adopted in 2012 at the behest of eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Romney staffers sought to limit the potential influence of delegates committed to former Rep. Ron Paul, and to guard against signs of division within the nominating process.

Some state GOP leaders, including Virginia's long-time national committeeman and RNC rules committee member Morton Blackwell, fought unsuccessfully against the rule in 2012. Blackwell has continued his fight this year, issuing a lengthy memorandum to his fellow Republican National Committee members in January warning them of the rule's potential problems. 

Blackwell warned that Rule 40 prevented Paul's delegates' votes from even being counted, the result being that "hundreds of delegates went home furious at the Romney campaign."

Calling the process by which the rule was adopted in 2012, "abusive," Blackwell wrote that "[b]ad rules should not be used to disenfranchise legitimate delegates."

Blackwell sought to change the rule at a meeting of party officials in mid-January, but was rebuffed. Earlier this month, Blackwell, who has endorsed Sen. Cruz, reiterated his concerns.

"Under the current rules," Blackwell wrote, "it’s nonsense to talk about any candidate coming from behind to win the nomination unless that candidate meets the eight-state threshold before the first ballot, much less to talk about breaking a possible convention deadlock by nominating anyone who is not right now a candidate for the nomination."

Blackwell further argued that the 2016 convention "could be deadlocked because so many legitimate delegates’ votes couldn’t be counted that no one could assemble the required 1,237 delegate votes."

Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union" with Dana Bash, Priebus said such concerns are misplaced.

"There will always be a perception problem if people continue ... to not explain the process properly," Priebus said, saying the 2016 convention's delegates will write their own rules, just as the delegates to the 2012 convention did.

"Those delegates make the decisions on the governance of the convention that they’re a part of," Priebus told Bash. "That’s really simple to me."

Republican strategist and former Virginia election official Brian Schoeneman agreed, telling AMI Newswire, "Any changes made to Rule 40 will happen before the convention and they will likely relax the rules."

Schoeneman noted that the current battle over the GOP nomination has clouded the rules debate.

"As long as [a rules change] doesn't have a major impact on Trump, the Trump supporters shouldn't complain," Schoeneman said.

"If Trump gets close to 1,237 but doesn't beat it," Schoeneman added, "we have to go into a brokered convention and Rule 40 is going to cause problems for Cruz if he hasn't won a majority of the delegations of eight states."

Schoeneman did agree with Blackwell that a complete repeal of Rule 40 would be even worse than the current situation.

"If they don't replace it with anything that requires candidates to have won any states prior to the convention," Scheoneman said, it will "pave the way for a dark-horse candidate to win the nomination on the floor. That will cause the Trump people to go insane. 

"The better suggestion would be to go back to the five-state plurality rule that existed prior to 2012," Schoeneman said. "Under that one, Trump and Cruz already qualify" for the nomination."