At a recent lunch, a prominent Kansas City Democrat revealed her biggest fear about Election 2016.
It wasn’t a Donald Trump victory in November. That possibility already appeared to be remote.
No, the scarier possibility to this voter was the chance that Trump would drop out, sending the race into uncharted territory and presenting Republicans with a second chance to capture the White House.
Democrats have reason to be worried. While the imminent death of the Republican Party remains a popular topic as Trump withers away, the reality remains that any number of GOP candidates — think John Kasich, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio — might well have trounced Clinton had they won the nomination.
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Meantime, media speculation about Trump quitting the race is raging. While there’s no hard evidence to suggest anything’s in the offing, who among us can’t imagine it given Trump’s unpredictable nature? His campaign appears to be in chaos, the polls are damning these days and Trump reminds us often that he’s no loser.
Here’s one authoritative-sounding story from earlier this month:
“ABC News has learned that senior party officials are so frustrated and confused by Donald Trump’s erratic behavior that they are exploring how to replace him on the ballot if he drops out.”
So what would happen?
Turns out there’s a system in place for just such an eventuality. It’s Rule 9 in the GOP bylaws. It states that the 168-member Republican National Committee (three members from each state, plus the territories) is empowered to fill any such vacancy.
The committee could vote in a successor. Or, it could reconvene a national convention to do the job.
In a committee vote, each state delegation would be awarded the same number of votes it got at the convention. For Kansas, that was 40 delegate votes. In Missouri, it was 57. So in Missouri, each of the three delegates, in theory, would cast 19 votes unless the rules were changed.
If that isn’t strange enough, consider this: State deadlines for placing names on the ballot are looming. Most likely, the GOP would wind up waging state-by-state legal battles to push a new candidate onto election ballots.
“It’s not even clear to me that if he did step aside that you could replace him in many states,” said Missouri GOP chairman John Hancock.
No presidential nominee has ever quit before.
Just imagine the fight over who the successor would be. Ted Cruz would have an argument as the second-place finisher in the primaries. Mike Pence would have an argument as Trump’s vice-presidential nominee. Paul Ryan would have an argument as House speaker. John Kasich might argue that polls show he’d have the best chance of defeating Clinton.
Pure pandemonium it would be.
And the time pressure? Enormous.
Clay Barker, the Kansas GOP’s executive director, hardly wants to think about it.
“I can’t even imagine,” he said.