The Republican Party does not require a presidential candidate to win eight states to qualify to be placed in nomination at its upcoming Cleveland convention, GOP officials say.
The Republican National Committee's "Rule 40(b)" makes eligibility for the GOP nomination contingent upon winning a majority of the convention delegates in at least eight states or territories, an achievement generally accomplished by winning at least eight primary or caucus elections. However, Rule 40(b) only applied to the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., that nominated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Party officials and knowledgeable sources have confirmed over the past few days that Rule 40(b) doesn't exist for the purposes of the upcoming convention. That means at this point, the three candidates left in the race, front-runner Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are all eligible for the nomination, as, possibly, are the Republican contenders who have since suspended their campaigns.
Ben Ginsberg, a Republican elections lawyer who was involved in rule-making process for the 2012 convention, said that Rule 40(b) isn't transferrable to the 2016 convention. Ginsberg explained to the Washington Examiner that what was passed in 2012 applied only to 2012, and that the 2016 convention must pass its own rule determining nomination eligibilty.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus confirmed Ginsberg's assessment on Sunday during a television interview. "There will always be a perception problem if people continue to miss — to not explain the process properly. So, the 2012 rules committee writes the rules for the 2012 convention. The 2016 rules committee writes the rules for the 2016 convention," he told CNN.
The party's nominee is never officially crowned until he receives the vote of at least 1,237 elected convention delegates. But the exercise has been a formality for so long, with conventions functioning as made-for-television pep rallies, the public has essentially assumed that the winner is determined by their votes in the primaries and caucuses held in most states and U.S. territories.
This year, the Republican Party could face a contested presidential nominating convention for the first time since 1976, as Trump, who leads in the hunt for delegates, could conclude the primary season short of 1,237. Trump's delegate count stands at 678, followed by Cruz at 423 and Kasich at 143. That has attracted extra scrutiny to the rules governing the four-day convention, set to begin July 18. The process is shrouded in confusion.
For instance, many political observers have long assumed that Rule 40(b), approved four years ago by the convention rules committee that met just prior to the convention, was a permanent fixture of the RNC rulebook. The regulation was pushed to block Ron Paul from having his name placed in nomination in Tampa. Paul was well short of delegates and would have lost. But Romney, the presumptive nominee, wanted to avoid the appearance of a divided party.
This has led to erroneous reporting that only Trump has satisfied requirements for having his name placed in nomination at Cleveland, while Cruz and Kasich still have not. The misunderstanding stems from perplexity about the rules process.
Every four years, a rules committee comprised of elected convention delegates (about two from each state and territory delegation) meets during the week just prior to the convention to determine the regulations that will govern the convention. Every convention rules committee approves a rules package that includes regulations that determine eligibility for candidates to have their names placed in nomination on the convention floor.
Those rules apply only to that particular quadrennial convention.
If the July convention in Cleveland is contested, most of the 2,472 elected delegates will be free to vote for whichever candidate they choose after the first ballot, if the winner of that tally fails to garner 1,237. Their choice of candidates could be limited in part by the rules of eligibility as written by the convention rules committee that will meet in Cleveland just prior to the convention itself.