Efforts to unbind delegates were soundly defeated by the 112-member RNC Rules Committee
The moves clear the way for Donald Trump to win the the GOP presidential nomination on the first ballot next week
The anti-Donald Trump movement was dealt a resounding defeat late Thursday night, as any realistic hopes of keeping the New York billionaire from winning the nomination slipped away with a series of votes in the small but powerful Rules Committee.
The effort to stop Trump from clinching the nomination on the first ballot next week was centered on the concept of unbinding all the delegates at the convention to back any candidate they wished. The presumption was that Trump, who captured well over the 1,237 delegates needed, would fall short and the convention would move to additional ballots where another candidate would win.
Trump goes into the convention with momentum. His poll numbers have risen over the past week, and he is poised to introduce Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running-mate. That announcement, scheduled for Friday, was delayed due to the attack in Nice, France, Thursday night.
But while the #NeverTrump movement has been active, it failed to gain any true traction in Cleveland during the party meetings this week. It has also been hampered by the lack of an alternate candidate that would take the place of Trump as the GOP’s nominee.
After more than 12-hour day, the end came in two quick votes. The Rules panel first altered language some had said could be interpreted to say delegates weren’t obligated to vote based on primary results. That vote was 87-12.
Then, they soundly rejected the proposal from the Colorado delegate Kendal Unruh, the leader of the unbind delegates movement, to let delegates vote their “conscience.”
Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort declared victory shortly thereafter.
“Anti-Trump people get crushed at Rules Committee. It was never in doubt: Convention will honor will of people & nominate @realdonaldtrump,” he tweeted.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the primary and had kept his position closely guarded, gave an impassioned plea for delegates to be free to vote for whomever they chose, citing the importance of rights to the GOP and criticizing the Trump campaign for what he called steamrolling the nomination.
“This problem, this angst is going to go away just because we paper over it with rules,” Lee said. “So I say to Mr. Trump and those aligned with him, make the case, make the case to those delegates who want to have a voice … don’t make the case that their voices should be silenced. That’s not going to help, that’s not going to help make him president that’s not going to help our party in the long run.”
“The fight is far from over in Cleveland. Delegates will not be denied,” co-founder Dane Waters said.
But Lee was clearly in the minority. Delegate after delegate rose to give their reasons for supporting primary results binding delegates to vote for specific candidates, with many citing the more than 14 million voters who cast a ballot for Trump in the primary.
“I have no intention of returning to those people who I rely on to keep me in office and telling them I had some part in shredding their votes,” said Louisiana Committeeman Ross Little Jr., who had been otherwise aligned with Unruh throughout the day on a series of other efforts to take power away from the RNC.
Hawaii delegate Nathan Paikai, who wore a Make America Great Again hat as he said he was at his first Rules Committee to support Trump, came close to tears as he asked why Republicans would not simply unite behind Trump.
Other delegates took the opportunity to decry the ema