This Is Why Rule 40b Won't Matter By The Time The July Convention Rolls Around

As Donald Trump edges closer and closer to the 1,237-delegate threshold, the GOP rules have begun to steal the spotlight from the race for delegates — especially among the anti-Trump crowd. A rule that was put in place by party bigwigs back in 2012 to exclude libertarian Texas Rep. Ron Paul — a big hit with the Tea Party at the time — may actually benefit Donald Trump, or at least keep out a mainstream candidate like Mitt Romney. But that's only if Rule 40(b), as it's called, is applied. In all likelihood Rule 40(b) won't matter.

The establishment worried that many delegates would vote for Paul in 2012, which would have prevented the GOP from presenting itself as a unified front behind their candidate. There was no doubt he would win the nomination, but they didn't want things to look messy. Romney's camp successfully lobbied for a rule that required any candidate at the convention have the majority support of delegates from eight states to qualify to have their name on the ballot. Currently only Ted Cruz and Donald Trump fit the bill, which would edge out John Kasich as well as any establishment candidate snuck in at the last minute.

BILL WECHTER/AFP/Getty Images

But in the end, it won't matter. And it won't matter for a couple of reasons. The rule as it stands now is temporary. It's a placeholder that will be in place until the convention starts. A group called the Rules Committee will meet a few days before the convention officially starts in Cleveland. Their job is to vote on the rules of the convention. Rule 40(b) was voted on in 2012 and is basically a leftover. It will stay the same unless changing it will somehow benefit the GOP establishment. That's why it was changed in 2012 — the threshold was upped from five to eight states, again to help Romney.

The committee is made up of 112 delegates from the 50 states, five territories, and D.C. Most of them are party leaders and longtime members who understand the complicated inner workings of the convention. They will take the rule suggestions from the RNC's rules committee and vote on it. Many of the same people usually serve on both, so the party's wishes tend to be followed, but they could reject or change them at this time. Then the rules go on to the whole floor, to be voted on by the 2,472 delegates.

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images News/Getty Images

At any point Rule 40(b) could be altered or even scrapped. Imagine it's scrapped altogether, opening the floor up to an outside nominee like Mitt Romney. That wouldn't make a difference because Ted Cruz would likely have more support and would go on to win over Romney. As Nate Silver argues, Cruz seems to be well liked by delegates, and when some see their votes released from Trump or Kasich in the second round, many might go for him, joining others who haven't been released yet and pushing him over the top.

The more likely scenario is that Rule 40(b) could be amended or, likely, left as it is to try and keep out Kasich. But even that might not work. According to a note by conservative activist Morton Blackwell, read aloud on The Mark Levin Show, Kasich could potentially wiggle his way around the rule. The rule only states that the candidate "shall demonstrate the support of a 40 of 42 majority of the delegates from each of eight or more states." The delegates don't necessarily "support" the candidate they're bound to, he argues. That means Kasich could present signed letters of support from a majority of delegates in eight states even if they're bound to vote for another candidate in the first or second round.

So no matter how you slice or dice it, Rule 40(b) as it stands won't matter. It's only a placeholder until July, and no matter how it's altered, there's a small chance it will effect the outcome of the convention.