The movement to free Republican convention delegates and deny Donald Trump the GOP presidential nomination has come to Missouri.
Operatives began reaching out this week, one leading state Republican told the Buzz, talking to Missouri delegates about the GOP convention in Cleveland in July. The callers are trying to determine if there’s serious support for abandoning Trump at the convention and seeking a different nominee.
“There’s at least ten of us that are working the issue, (talking to) both delegates and alternates, and just interested people,” said Carl Bearden, a Republican delegate involved in the effort. “We’re just getting started.”
The Republican said the group will offer no specific alternative to Trump.
Under state rules, convention delegates are pledged to reflect the results of the Mar. 15 primary in Missouri. Under those rules, 37 of the delegates must cast their ballots for Trump, while 15 will vote for Sen. Ted Cruz.
But the movement to “free the delegates” argues the state rules are unenforceable in Cleveland. They think delegates are free to vote their consciences now.
The group is also working to change the national rules before the convention to allow delegates a free vote on the first ballot.
There is no indication that the GOP’s official Missouri leadership is involved in the anti-Trump calls.
It’s known that at least some of Trump’s 37 Missouri convention delegates are not true supporters of the candidate, and would switch their votes if there is a second ballot. But there is some resistance, even among delegates unsympathetic to Trump, to voting against the wishes of party members who voted in the primary.
“What we’re talking about is somewhat unusual,” Bearden said. “It is a rebellion of sorts, so that makes some people uncomfortable. While they might believe what (we’re) saying about Trump, they may not not believe it enough to say yes, I’m going to step out.”
The success or failure of the effort may be clear by the beginning of next week.
A source in Kansas said there is no evidence of a similar organized effort in that state to move delegates away from Trump. The state has 24 Cruz delegates, nine for Trump, six for Sen. Marco Rubio, and one for Gov. John Kasich.
Kansas delegates must vote for those candidates until released, under state rules. As in Missouri, some anti-Trump Republicans say the rules are not enforceable in Cleveland, and that delegates are free to vote for the candidate of their choice at the convention.