Top Republican officials have reportedly taken initial steps to prepare for what to do if Donald Trump drops out of the election. Since the conclusion of last month’s Republican National Convention, Trump has struggled to stabilize his campaign moving forward, and his unpredictable behavior is making Republicans nervous.
ABC News reported that senior Republican officials have started to weigh the possibility that Trump could exit the presidential race. This development follows last week’s string of attacks and insults from Trump and his campaign directed at the family of slain Muslim American soldier U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan after his father, Khizr Khan, spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
Khan delivered a passionate speech grilling Trump for his immigration policy and repeated call for a Muslim ban.
“Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution?” Khan said. “I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words, liberty and equal protection (under) law.”
In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Trump responded by suggesting that Khan’s wife, Ghazala, didn’t speak at the DNC because she wasn’t allowed.
“If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say,” Trump said. “It looked like she had nothing to say.”
It wasn’t just Trump’s remarks that ruffled one too many feathers.
On Tuesday night, Katrina Pierson, Trump’s national spokesperson, said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that President Obama was to blame for Khan’s death.
“It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagement that probably cost his life,” Pierson said.
Khan was killed in 2004 while serving a tour in Iraq. Obama wasn’t elected president until 2008.
According to the Washington Post, a bipartisan group of combat veterans in Congress, led by John McCain, assembled on Monday to rebuke comments made by Trump and his campaign staffers.
“In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents,” McCain said. “He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States — to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement.”
Trump put himself at odds with the Republican establishment yet again when he refused to endorse Paul Ryan or John McCain in their upcoming primary campaigns. Trump’s bad week got worse when reports emerged that not only were campaign staffers suicidal, but Obama ramped up his attacks by calling Trump “unfit” to be president.
At a rally on Monday night, Trump told a large crowd gathered in Columbus, Ohio, that he’s skeptical he’s being treated unfairly by his party and the media.
“I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged. I have to be honest,” Trump said.
After Trump failed to endorse Ryan, top Republicans are so furious they feel they have no choice but to plan for the worst. Senior party officials are now laying the groundwork for what to do if Trump decides enough is enough and drops out of the election.
If Trump does the unthinkable — what happens next?
First, Trump would have to voluntarily step down. The next step would be the 168 members of the Republican National Committee would vote on Trump’s replacement. If Trump steps down by early September, the party will have enough time to select a new nominee.
Replacing Trump would be a legal nightmare and an extremely complicated process for everyone involved. Each state has their own laws and deadlines for allowing or denying new candidates to appear on their ballots, and despite what happens, Trump’s name is still likely to appear on the ballot in each state.
Rule 9 of the Republican National Committee under “Filling Vacancies in Nominations” says the party may “reconvene” the national convention if the nominee drops out to allow state members to cast their votes.
“In the event that the members of the Republican National Committee from any state shall not be in agreement in the casting of votes hereunder, the votes of such state shall be divided equally, including fractional votes, among the members of the Republican National Committee present or voting by proxy.”
Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, is no doubt grappling with how to properly react to and address Trump’s failure to endorse Ryan. An anonymous source told NBC News that the RNC Chair is “apologetic” and currently in talks with the Trump campaign in an effort to smooth things over.
Mike Pence broke away from Trump and threw his full support behind Ryan by endorsing him on Wednesday. Trump’s failure to follow Pence’s lead on this issue is yet another strange turn in an unpredictable election cycle.
Trump has frequently repeated his desire to change his party and turn it into a “worker’s party,” and if the GOP officials once again try to oust and replace Trump, it’s unclear who would emerge as a viable alternative. If Trump drops out of the race, it would be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in presidential politics and the Republican party would be in absolute disarray.
Trump continues to insist his party is unified despite reports of GOP officials preparing for his potential exit. The week’s not over and Trump has already failed to endorse major party members, feuded with a mourning military family, and kicked a crying a baby out of his rally. Trump’s unprecedented political rise from real estate mogul to the Republican nominee in the past year has been unpredictable, and if he drops out, who knows if the Republican Party will ever recover.
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]