With the Republican primary effectively over, we’ve now officially entered the “veepstakes” stage of the election. There’s been rampant speculation over who the party’s vice presidential nominee will be, and that speculation isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Lately, though, some have been asking a different, more intriguing question: Can Donald Trump’s vice president be rejected at the convention?
According to the Republican National Committee’s convention rulebook, the answer is yes. When it comes to presidential nominations, RNC rules are pretty strict: They require the convention’s delegates to vote for the presidential candidate to whom they are bound on at least the first ballot. This goal of this rule is to prevent faithless delegates from throwing the nomination to, say, Paul Ryan, or some other candidate who didn’t win a majority of support from GOP primary voters.
But while the RNC’s rules are quite stringent regarding the presidential nomination, they’re pretty relaxed when it comes to the vice presidential nomination. Most relevantly, there’s no rule that requires the convention’s delegates to vote for the presidential nominee’s vice presidential pick. From the strictest technical standpoint, this means that in the Republican presidential nominee only has the power to suggest, not actually select, their running mate.
Normally, this isn’t an issue, because normally, the GOP isn’t in the midst of an intra-party civil war that threatens its very existence. But that’s precisely what’s happening this year: The party's presidential nominee is despised by a very significant chunk of the party itself, and as a result, it’s entirely conceivable that the convention’s delegates could reject whomever Trump proposes as vice president.
This is especially true given the identities of the actual delegates. Despite winning many primaries and caucuses, Trump has failed spectacularly at getting his own supporters elected to delegate slots at statewide conventions. It was Ted Cruz’s campaign that succeeded at this below-the-radar game; as a result, a big chunk (and maybe a majority) of the convention delegates are, in their hearts, Cruz supporters.
The upshot of all this is that Trump needs to choose a vice president who Cruz supporters like, which probably means he needs to choose a strong conservative. Trump will not have the option of, say, picking a moderate or liberal running mate in an attempt to woo Democratic voters. He certainly won’t be able to nominate a Democrat, as Trump surrogate Ben Carson suggested Thursday.
Many of Cruz’s supporters are still licking their wounds after the Texas senator’s campaign-ending defeat in Indiana. However, they can take at least some solace knowing that, when it comes time for Trump to pick his running mate, they’ll effectively have veto power over his choice.