Trevor Potter spoke with The American Prospect magazine concerning the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer. Mr. Potter comments on how the majority of delegates are not obligated to vote for Donald Trump and their votes for the Republican running mate will be the most decision delegates make at the convention. For the full article, please visit The American Prospect's website.
Excerpt taken from the article.
But GOP delegates “are effectively free agents” when it comes to other decisions that will be made at the convention, including the contents of the Republican Party platform and, crucially, the selection of a vice presidential nominee, says Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and who was general counsel to Arizona Senator John McCain when he was the party’s 2008 presidential nominee.
“The most important decision they will make is to vote for a vice presidential candidate,” notes Potter, who knows full well how contentious such choices can be. When McCain arrived at the GOP’s convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2008, he was seriously considering tapping as his running mate then-Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent and former Democrat who had run alongside Al Gore in 2000.
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But McCain’s advisers warned him that selecting Lieberman, an abortion rights supporter, would trigger an all-out conservative revolt. McCain “decided not to risk a floor fight,” recalls Potter, though he argues that the Arizona Senator would have won that battle. McCain ultimately chose then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a conservative firebrand who soon thereafter proved highly controversial. In this election Palin has endorsed Trump but says she would not consider another tour as running mate.
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Trump says he will announce his running mate in Cleveland. But while party conventions typically rubber stamp the nominee’s vice presidential choice, Potter says, things may be different for Trump. Under convention rules, a majority of the delegations of eight states must formally nominate someone for vice president. Trump could undoubtedly rally enough delegates from eight states to nominate his choice.
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“This is a real opportunity for people who are unhappy about these developments to have a role in the process, and effectively a veto power over who is chosen—and potentially an activist role embarrassing for the convention and the nominee if he gets his choice wrong when he’s looking at things,” says Potter.
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But the selection of Trump’s running mate may prove the most important ace in the hole for Republicans upset over the divisive billionaire’s role as their standard bearer. The first round of candidate balloting in Cleveland will presumably win Trump the nomination. But the next vote the convention takes will be for the vice presidential nominee. The wide-open rules for that process will force Trump to win the majority of convention delegates. He will not have a blank slate. Notes Potter: “I think it presents yet another complexity for Trump, and he’s going to have to handle this very carefully.”