RNC Rules Committee stocked with stalwarts

Story highlights

  • The committee has roughly 40 elected RNC members on it
  • Several of the members have served on the Rules Committee for decades

Washington (CNN)The long-shot effort to pass rules at the Republican National Convention that would unbind delegates and allow them to vote for someone other than Donald Trump will face even longer odds given the make-up of the Rules Committee.

Members of the convention committee that will draft the rules in Cleveland in July were given the list of their colleagues late Thursday. The list was obtained by CNN.
The committee has roughly 40 elected RNC members on it, with three dozen state committeemen and women and four state or territory party chairmen. That makes up more than one-third of the 112-member committee, which is filled with one man and one woman for each delegation of the states and territories.
    Several of the members have served on the Rules Committee for decades, and many also serve on the RNC's Standing Rules Committee. That group met this April in Florida and rejected a bid to change the rules of procedure for the convention, passing a draft of the convention rules that matched the ones put in place by the 2012 convention delegates.
    Membership in the RNC is no guarantee that the Rules delegates would be opposed to unbinding the delegates. In fact, North Dakota National Committeeman Curly Haugland, a longtime Rules member, is one of the main proponents of the idea that delegates should be free to vote for whomever they choose, regardless of primary results. He will be joined by "Free the Delegates" organizer Kendal Unruh, a delegate from Colorado.
    Nevertheless, Haugland's ideas have been defeated at the Rules Committee year after year by many of the people who will return to the committee again this July. He will also be joined by Virginia National Committeeman Morton Blackwell, Oregon National Committeeman Solomon Yue, and Arizona National Committeeman Bruce Ash, all of whom have spoken forcefully against any rules changes that would change the process mid-game.
    Blackwell, who has served on the RNC's rules committees since 1988, called the unbinding effort all talk, without the political organization to make it happen.
    "My father used to say, 'Anyone can get his name in the newspapers if he's willing to take his pants off in public,'" Blackwell said. "So there's going to be coverage of it, but it's fantasy to think any of these rules are going to be changed."
    In addition to the RNC stalwarts, most of whom have an interest in preserving the party rules they have put in place previously, there are a handful of elected officials on the committee. Five state lawmakers are on the committee, as are Utah Sen. Mike Lee and New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce.
    The rules put in place in 2012 will govern the convention until the convention floor passes a new set. The Rules Committee will finalize a draft, which will require a 57-delegate majority to advance to the floor. That set of rules will need a majority of delegates on the floor to go into effect. If one-quarter of the delegates sign on to an alternate set of rules, that can go to the floor as a minority report from the committee.
    Unruh and her co-organizer, New Jersey GOP operative Steve Lonegan, are bullish on their chances, saying they expect to get 57 members to sign on to their effort to unbind all delegates, the vast majority of whom are required to vote based on state primary results.
    But they will face tough opposition from the well-connected members on the committee who oppose their drive.
    Yue and Blackwell and others point out that about 80% of the delegates going to the convention support either Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has publicly not supported efforts to free delegates from primary results. In addition to the stalwarts on the committee, Trump will have supportive representatives on the committee from states that voted overwhelmingly for the presumptive nominee, including his home state of New York.
    The committee will be chaired by Utah National Committeewoman Enid Mickelsen and Massachusetts National Committeeman Ron Kaufman, named by the RNC. Neither count to the 112 members.
    Politico was the first to report the roster.