Republican rumblings about their presumptive presidential nominee are growing louder throughout the party across the country – but you don’t hear much of the talk in New York State.
Party conservatives appalled at Donald Trump’s penchant for controversy are seeking some way – any way – to derail his nomination at the Republican National Convention that will open July 18 in Cleveland.
But any move to stop Trump will encounter a firewall from New York State Republicans, especially Western New Yorkers assigned to key committees.
“If there is any attempt in the rules committee to somehow allow delegates to go away from their pledged duty, there’s going to be a war,” said Buffalo developer and 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl P. Paladino, a campaign co-chairman for Trump in New York.
Paladino and Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy are warning any Republicans even contemplating a political coup against Trump to “back off.”
“There’s a lot of firepower here from Western New York in the mix,” Langworthy said. “If there is a problem in Cleveland, we would be the go-to people to work against that.”
Paladino, a Trump delegate and credentials committee member, did not mince words in warning any potentially wayward Trump delegates. “I’d certainly whack them if they went off the reservation,” he said.
The Washington Post reported last week that despite Trump’s indisputable claim to the nomination, some Republicans fear mass defections from the party in races everywhere. It quoted conservatives such as Atlanta radio host Erick Erickson likening the outcome of the Trump convention to “ritual suicide.”
“Multiple lawyers I know have looked at the rules and say that the delegates can unbind themselves,” Erickson told the Post.
Politifact concluded that Trump’s claim that delegates lack the authority to change their own rules is “mostly false.”
“If this year’s rules committee votes to change the rules to thwart Trump, it’s well within its authority to do so,” the fact-checking service reported. “And intervention by the courts would be unlikely. Because political parties are private organizations, courts have said they can set their own rules.”
But Trump’s allies in New York, where the Manhattan real estate mogul won 61 percent of the vote and 61 of 62 counties in the April 19 presidential primary, say that any attempt to deny him the nomination he won in the primaries isn’t going to happen.
“I don’t get a sense of any real or credible threat,” Langworthy said. “There would have to be massive, massive defections to get there. The people have spoken, and he is the nominee of our party.”
Still, local delegates acknowledge the talk of a possible insurrection in Cleveland. But they say that the strength of Trump’s home state – where only a handful of delegates were claimed in the primary by Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich – will block any efforts to launch an anti-Trump coup.
They also question any interpretation of the rules allowing for pledged delegates to alter their vote. “I would be bound to support Trump on the first ballot and would oppose any change in the rules that would ignore the results of the primary election,” said Ralph M. Mohr, an attorney and the Erie County Republican elections commissioner assigned to the convention rules committee.
Paladino, however, questions whether other New York Republicans are as committed to Trump as those from Erie and other western counties. “I don’t trust our entire delegation,” he said. “Everything is not as hunky-dory as it appears.”
Paladino, who is often critical of State GOP Chairman Edward F. Cox, contends that the Kasich campaign received silent encouragement from GOP headquarters during the primary campaign. He also said he believes that the nominee will even prefer that Cox relinquish announcing the bloc of votes that officially confers the nomination, a duty traditionally reserved for the chairman of the nominee’s home state delegation. “We want Donald Trump Jr. to be the delegate that makes that announcement,” Paladino said, adding that he remains “hesitant” about Cox acting as chairman of the New York contingent to the convention.
“I still don’t trust him,” Paladino said. “If Cox keeps his word, fine – not like playing the games he did in the primary.”
The chairman, however, has not demonstrated any efforts in the past to demand the convention spotlight. Although he managed Arizona Sen. John McCain’s New York presidential campaign in 2008, he ceded the convention microphone to Joseph N. Mondello. The state chairman at the time had supported former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s unsuccessful bid for the GOP presidential nomination.
Cox would not address Paladino’s accusations, but dismissed any notion that he or any New York delegate would not enthusiastically support Trump. He said New York would “of course” lead the way in blocking any effort to deny the nomination to Trump. “We are onboard,” he said, adding that talk of new anti-Trump efforts “is a media creation.”
On that score, he and Paladino agree. Paladino said he also doubts whether any coup against the nominee will materialize.
“There’s potential for heavy disruption in Cleveland, and the press has generally been trying to encourage a revolt,” he said. “The press is looking for it. They’re trying to sell newspapers.”