It’s been more than interesting to watch Donald Trump modify his campaign message to deal with the real possibility that, as Steve Benen writes, he could arrive at the “Republican National Convention with the most pledged delegates, the most votes, and the most state victories – and the party will nominate someone else anyway.”
That this has nothing to do with the rules being rigged against him, as Trump is now saying daily, but is because of a process that everyone either did or should have understood going in is, for Trump, incomprehenisible. That the situation is largely due to Trump being out-organized by those who understand politics far better than he does is also not something he can grasp or admit.
No, this, he is now saying, is a clear example of what he warned everyone about, that as things got real, he would not be treated fairly and whaddya know?
There appears to be broad consensus that Trump will get the delegates he needs to win on the first ballot or be very close. There are many opinions about what will happen if he falls short, with variations depending on how short.
What I find most fascinating is that Trump is now working very hard to establish the sense that if he is deprived of the nomination, there will be hell to pay.
The snarling tone he uses to talk about the “corrupt” system and “crooked shenanigans” is, to his credit as a communicator, really sinking in with voters, increasing numbers of which think he should be the nominee if he fails to reach the needed number but is still the clear leader going in.
Back it March you will recall that Trump said, and then qualified, an assertion that there would be riots in the street in Cleveland if he was denied the nomination under circumstances his supporters might deem questionable. However he may have qualified those comments, there is little doubt that he wanted the impression left that bad things could happen.
More recently he said, “The Republican National Committee, they should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this kind of crap to happen.” Never mind that the crap in question refers to the rules as they were written and intended. This, Trump really wants us to know, is a volitile situation and he can’t be held responsible if things go off the rails.
To an extent, this is where Trump’s business skills, his negotiations skills, are useful to him in a political context. Most people are risk averse and typically easily threatened by those who appear to not give a damn. Donald Trump is trying very hard to set up a scenario in which delegates, perhaps even opinion leaders in the Republican Party, are not sure what will happen if Trump is denied.
Perhaps in this kind of negotiation the advantage goes to the one or ones who appear somewhat unstable, though exactly how this might manifest itself is hard to say. Would Trump work actively against the interests of the GOP in the general election by claiming any nominee other than himself is illegitimate? Might there actually be real violence in Cleveland end elsewhere?
In any case, is there any reason to believe Trump will refrain from bringing some level of crazy to the process should he be frozen out? At the very least it seems obvious he is shrewd enough to want that question rattling around inside the heads of delegates as they contemplate various outcomes.
Donald Trump is not just saying stuff. He’s a man with a plan.