Way, way back, in the beginning of this election season — nearly a year ago — pundits and commentators said repeatedly that it was just a matter of time before Donald Trump dropped out of the race. His racist comments, sexist statements, and xenophobic policy proposals were ticking time bombs that would eventually cause his campaign to implode. But 11 months later, he's now the presumptive nominee for the Republican party. The sense of certainty that his campaign has an expiration date has long since faded, but realistically, the probability that he could say something so horrible and offensive that it would end his campaign hasn't decreased at all. So what would happen if Trump's campaign blew up so badly that he had no choice but to drop out of the race?
First of all, it's a completely unprecedented scenario. Never in the modern history of American politics has there been no candidate left in the race leading up to the convention. However, the Republican National Committee actually does have a contingency plan for such a circumstance. According to the Rule Nine in the official rules of the Republican Party, the nomination in the event of a vacancy would proceed just like a typical nomination — delegates would convene to vote on candidates and whichever candidate secured the majority would win the nomination. Simple enough, right?
The complication would come when deciding whom to vote for. Depending on how close this theoretical implosion is to the convention, there would likely be a nasty floor fight. Establishment consensus on a candidate was always an issue in this election cycle, and it wouldn't get any easier in a time-limited panic. Candidates who were previously in the race, including those who dropped out way back in the day like Jeb Bush or Mike Huckabee, would more than likely come back and try once again to secure the nomination. Any number of prominent Republicans could also come out of the woodwork looking to lead the party through this troubling time. It would be an unqualified mess, and there's absolutely no telling who would come out on top.
If Trump were to drop out of the race, it could be more divisive for the GOP than him staying in. Without a clear alternative to bring the party together, Trump may actually be the best bet for the party, as sad as that may be for many Republicans. However, in the two months remaining until the convention, there is still the possibility that Trump's campaign could go down in flames, leaving the Republican party to scramble and figure out an alternative.