Politics-focused social media went a little bit nuts on Thursday afternoon, when Time magazine’s website posted a story suggesting that Republican frontrunner Donald trump might lose the 50 delegates he won by sweeping both the popular vote and all the congressional districts in South Carolina in February’s primary election there.
The idea was that because Trump announced on Tuesday that he no longer felt bound by the loyalty pledge he signed as a condition for participating in the South Carolina vote, the delegates from the Palmetto State might be released from their obligation to vote for him.
“Breaking South Carolina’s presidential primary ballot pledge raises some unanswered legal questions that no one person can answer,” state party chairman Matt Moore told Time’s Zeke J. Miller. “However, a court or national convention Committee on Contests could resolve them. It could put delegates in jeopardy.”
Election analysts are predicting that Trump could get to the convention in Cleveland in July with just enough delegates to assure a first-ballot nomination. So, the prospect of seeing him stripped of 50 delegates from South Carolina, and perhaps more from other states that required a loyalty pledge, may be exciting to those in the party who focus is depriving Trump of a majority and forcing a contested convention.
But after the story broke, Moore was quick to jump on Twitter and claim that no effort to take Trump’s delegates away is in the works.
Regarding delegate questions today: to be clear, no one is seeking to unbind ANY of South Carolina's national delegates.— Matt Moore (@MattMooreSC) March 31, 2016
And there’s good reason to question whether there ever will be.
In South Carolina, Trump won 32.5 percent of the vote in a six-candidate field, 10 points ahead of his nearest rival. It would be a major political risk for the leaders of the state party to be seen as complicit in an effort to overturn the will of the voters. (And if you think a large share of Trump voters will be bothered by his decision to scrap the loyalty pledge, there’s this bridge for sale in Brooklyn…)
The same problem would arise on a national scale if the RNC were to mount an effort to strip Trump of delegates that he won, fair and square. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but it would have to be part of a conscious decision on the part of Reince Priebus and the RNC to uproot Trump and millions of his supporters from the GOP. Trump promised riots if he is denied the nomination under those circumstances, but what would really trouble the GOP is that after Trump supporters were finished rioting, they would probably also stay home on election day.
If the RNC decides to undermine its frontrunner, it will likely begin with methods more subtle than that.