Trump speaks to supporters at Trump Tower Tuesday night.

Trump speaks to supporters at Trump Tower Tuesday night. Julie Jacobson/AP

The Republican Party Can Stop Trump But Only By Thwarting Its Voters

After his smashing victory in New York, he will finish the primaries well ahead of Cruz and in hailing range of the 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination.

With Don­ald Trump’s blo­wout win in New York and five more Trump-friendly states just a week away, Re­pub­lic­ans in­tent on block­ing their fron­trun­ner from the pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion will have no choice but to be­come down­right un­demo­crat­ic – with a lower-case “D.”

Na­tion­al Journ­al re­view of the re­main­ing states sug­gests that even if Trump does poorly in In­di­ana and loses win­ner-take-all con­tests in Neb­raska, South Dakota and Montana, he will likely still end the primary sea­son with close to 1,150 del­eg­ates. That total will be at least 300 del­eg­ates more than Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will have, and will rep­res­ent sev­er­al mil­lion more primary voters.

Trump made a point of men­tion­ing both of those leads in his vic­tory speech on Tues­day night, while con­tinu­ing to rail against a sys­tem that per­mits del­eg­ates to be awar­ded in loc­al and state con­ven­tions, rather than statewide elec­tions. “Nobody should take del­eg­ates and claim vic­tory un­less they get those del­eg­ates with voters and vot­ing,” he said. “The people aren’t go­ing to stand for it.”

So while Cruz and those com­mit­ted to de­feat­ing Trump con­tin­ue to ar­gue that his fin­ish­ing even a single del­eg­ate shy of the 1,237 threshold needed to se­cure the nom­in­a­tion means the party can right­fully give it to any­one it wants on the second bal­lot, oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans con­cede that ap­proach car­ries polit­ic­al haz­ards.

Ron Kauf­man, a Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee mem­ber from Mas­sachu­setts, said that if Trump gets close to that mark, enough of the 100-150 “un­bound” del­eg­ates at the con­ven­tion will prob­ably line up with Trump to make the ques­tion moot. Del­eg­ates not re­quired by the rules to vote for a par­tic­u­lar can­did­ate come from a num­ber of ter­rit­or­ies and states – with 54 com­ing from Pennsylvania, which votes next week.

“If he gets in­to the 1,100 range, my guess is he finds a way to get the oth­er 100,” Kauf­man said.

That Re­pub­lic­ans are even hav­ing this de­bate this far in­to the primary sea­son and with a can­did­ate so far ahead il­lus­trates again Trump’s un­pre­ced­en­ted ef­fect on their party. While a plur­al­ity of their vot­ing base sees Trump as the cham­pi­on of the neg­lected work­ing class, many GOP lead­ers see him as an in­com­pet­ent ego­ist who will not only to lose the gen­er­al elec­tion, but also cause the Re­pub­lic­ans to lose con­trol of the Sen­ate and sig­ni­fic­antly di­min­ish its ma­jor­ity in the House.

“Don­ald Trump is bad for my party and bad for the coun­try,” one loc­al New York State GOP of­fi­cial said privately. He al­lowed that giv­ing the nom­in­a­tion to someone who comes in second or third in the vot­ing, or someone who didn’t even run at all, would cause the party prob­lems. But let­ting Trump be the nom­in­ee, he be­lieved, would be even worse. “It’s something the party’s go­ing to have to work through.”

For his part, Trump is work­ing to make that a bur­den too heavy for the party even to con­tem­plate. While weeks ago he primar­ily at­tacked his rivals for the nom­in­a­tion, he has now in­stead turned his fire on the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee it­self, call­ing the sys­tem “rigged” and warn­ing of dire con­sequences should he fin­ish first in the del­eg­ates yet not be giv­en the nom­in­a­tion.

A former staffer is or­gan­iz­ing a protest march on the con­ven­tion in Clev­e­land in Ju­ly, even as new top cam­paign aides fo­cus on try­ing to find del­eg­ates ac­tu­ally loy­al to Trump to serve as del­eg­ates in those states he has won – a strategy Cruz made a pri­or­ity six months ago.

Shawn Steel, an RNC mem­ber from Cali­for­nia, said the on-the-ground work is a good step for­ward for Trump – one he could have taken at any time since he entered the race. “I think he could have had this wrapped up 30 days ago,” he said.

As to Trump’s sug­ges­tion that his voters will aban­don the party should he be denied the nom­in­a­tion, Steel said they could be brought back with a simple counter-ar­gu­ment: “And that’s Obama’s third term. And that’s a real vis­cer­al con­cern,” he said. “That’s why I think the threat of the walkout is greatly ex­ag­ger­ated.”

If Trump does in fact fin­ish about 100 del­eg­ates shy of the 1,237 mark, Steel said, the path to clinch­ing the nom­in­a­tion is fairly straight­for­ward.

“Is he go­ing to end his war with the party? Is he go­ing to im­prove his cam­paign op­er­a­tions? Is he go­ing to act more pres­id­en­tial?” Steel asked. “I think it’s up to him. This is one area where he has the chance to be suc­cess­ful or snatch de­feat from the jaws of vic­tory.”