CLEVELAND _ On the opening day of the Republican National Convention the first conflict of what was predicted to be a rowdy gathering indoors and out broke out. A vote to approve the rules of the convention, which were hammered out earlier by none other than the Rule Committee, passed with a voice vote. After some angry dispute, another voice vote resulted in the rules again passing en masse. In short, the angry collection of folks who wanted one last chance to throw Trump out were left in the lurch.
Some delegates thought they needed signatures from majorities of delegates from nine states in order to force a vote on the rules (though one delegate said 11, which appears to be the actual minimum threshold). However, no more than five minutes after the first voice vote, presiding official Rep. Steve Womack said three states out of nine had changed their minds, meaning the vote was officially dead.
This was cutting off NeverTrump at the pass. Perhaps its death-blow. Had the “nays” had it, a vote on the much-touted (by a small minority) “conscience clause” might have had a tiny chance. The loophole from which delegates could slip the surly bonds of Trump and instead choose … who the hell knows? The conscience clause pushed heavily by delegate Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Colorado delegate Kendal Unruh was intended to let everyone vote their conscience, bound and unbound delegates alike.
Both Lee and Unruh are Cruz backers. So is Virginia delegate and former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, who along with Lee was hoping to change all Republican primaries and caucuses to closed ones, meaning only GOP-registered voters would be allowed to participate. This is widely viewed as a move that would have helped, well, just about any candidate who isn’t Donald Trump.
Here’s Mike Lee yelling “NO!” earlier on the floor pic.twitter.com/82eLTPWPJS— Rosie Gray (@RosieGray) July 18, 2016
The conscience clause, just one suggested rule that failed to be included and then didn’t get a chance to be voice voted on today, would have thrown Trump’s status as assumed nominee into slight flux. Realistically, he would have had it, but he would have had to fight one more time.
Still. Angry delegates stressed that it was the principle of the thing.
Delegates from Colorado walked out. Others stayed to express their outrage.
Arizona delegate Tyler Mott, 38, an Army Reservist repeatedly screamed “Roll call vote on the rules!” He did not walk off but ranted to any media that was nearby. “If we’re outnumbered,”Mott said, “they could let us cout the votes! They didn’t want to count the votes, because they were afraid.”
He said this wasn’t about Trump but about RNC mischief.
Mott ranted throughout Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s speech. Though he was the loudest, angriest delegate on the floor, shouting “The rules! Roll call on the rules!” again and again, he was far from the only person ignoring Fallin.
Washington delegate Eric Minor, a software consultant, was mobbed by reporters. He continues to support Cruz over Trump. A reporter asked whether the kerfuffle was just about NeverTrump, and Minor responded “It was a combination. There were a number of people that were upset about other rules that were rejected or were strong-armed though by the RNC, in combination with people who needed the rules to be in such a way that they could vote their conscience–the unbinding issue. So it was a coalition of several different groups.”
When asked what was next for NeverTrump–or even just the conscience clause–Minor said, “I don’t believe there are any (options). I’m not experienced enough in this, but the voting down of the rules was what we thought was our last chance. Is there a procedure to undue a crooked vote? I don’t know what that is.”
Continuing, Minor said the RNC and the Trump people had “rigged” the vote and were “in cahoots right now.” When asked by Playboy about the delegate walkout, he didn’t know about that. I also asked him whether the showdown was all about the conscience clause or not, and he said, “No. It’s about taking accurate votes.” Another delegate, who didn’t wish to talk, enthusiastically agreed. Minor said, “(It’s) about allowing the people to speak. There’s certainly a lot of people who are worried about the conscience clause, but there are a lot of people that are worried about other things.”
When another reporter asked Minor to “sum up” what happened just then, security interrupted and shooed everyone away and towards the exits. Apparently MSNBC correspondent Kelly O’Donnell was unable to finish her TV spot due to security being so hard-nosed. Once recess was called, security got very firm and began to demand that media clear the floor and head for the exits.
Follow Lucy Steigerwald on Twitter @LucyStag.