CLEVELAND — A last-ditch effort by anti-trump delegates to deny Donald Trump the GOP nomination made it as far as the RNC floor Monday afternoon before being squashed unceremoniously.
Delegates passionately argued with one another on the convention floor over whether to support the movement known as both “Delegates Unbound” and “Free the Delegates,” before it failed during a voice vote.
Last minute change-ups and backroom wheeling and dealing ultimately led the tactic to fail. Supporters of unbinding delegates initially had 11 state delegations supporting them; at the final count they had nine, two more than they needed to force a floor roll-call vote. But at the final moment, three states left the movement with one fewer state delegations than needed.
“People were wondering why the music was going on for so long and it was because there were a lot of people scrambling. Lots of whip states scrambling and people voting for roll call and submitting their signatures. But they didn’t have enough,” said Lizzie Nickelson, a production intern who was backstage during the fracas. “The running around and the screaming and waiting for the votes to come and we had to authenticate the signatures. So props to the band for doing whatever we tell them.”
Despite preferring other Republican candidates to Trump, many delegates said it was time to give up the ghost on the Never Trump fight.
“I say let it go,” said Dwight Patel, a delegate from Maryland who said Donald Trump was his No. 16 choice for the nomination out of 17 (Rand Paul was last). “My fellow Republicans, you’re sore losers. I was with you guys. I maxed out to Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. If I can move on after tapping out about $7,000, you guys can too.”
Following the voice vote, delegates from Colorado stormed out of the arena.
Led by Colorado delegate Kendal Unruh and Republican political consultant Dale Waters, the Delegates Unbound movement would have changed the convention rules to free delegates to vote for the candidate of their “conscience.” Which meant, if they didn’t like Trump they shouldn’t have to support him as a delegate. Unruh herself was going delegate by delegate in the hour before the vote would be called, trying to convince people to sign on.
The effort to essentially dethrone Donald Trump at his own convention had already been deemed dubious in the week leading up to the convention. Nevertheless, Republicans in support of Trump and unifying party around him were clearly weary of the rule succeeding.
“I don’t think they are necessarily hiding [from the roll-call]. I think they are abiding. What the republican party needs right now is to unite behind one person,” said Nickelson. “And putting this vote through, and calling for a roll call. Was it doomed to fail? Yes. But does it put another deeper wedge among the Republican party? Absolutely.”
Many convention delegates agreed.
“I started off with Scott Walker and when he dropped off I moved to Cruz. [Trump] won the nomination. Am I excited about it? I’m not sure I’m excited about it, but it’s the process you go through and he won,” said Terry Haresty, 66, retired from South Carolina. “Mr. Trump has won the nomination. He won. I think part of [the reason they’re pushing it] stems from issues from the last convention and how it was run. I think some of those people are pushing the issue too far.”
Waters said that the Delegates Unbound movement would continue after the convention, which concludes Thursday.
“I’m not trying to reinvent anything, I just think the system is flawed,” Waters said. “I think that’s getting lost in all of this, people are equating the success of this movement of ‘if Donald trump is the nominee or not’. It’s bigger than that. If it’s Donald Trump, so be it. If it’s John Kasich or Frank Sinatra so be it. If the delegates vote their conscience and chose their individual than that’s the win.”