Republican leaders left and right have been withholding their endorsements for Donald Trump since the fateful 24-hour period in which Ted Cruz and John Kasich both dropped out. Four of the five most recent GOP presidential candidates won't be supporting the presumptive nominee, and the highest-ranking Republican in D.C., House Speaker Paul Ryan, said he's not yet ready to support Trump either. But there are some lesser-known Republicans who don't have that option. Come July, their hands will be tied. That's because even if national GOP convention delegates don't want to support Donald Trump, most will have to.
Ironically, some only wanted the position in order to stop him. The GOP's rules bind delegates to candidates based on the outcome of the presidential preference vote in each state — but in 31 states it's only on the first round of voting. In seven more, just through the second. So plenty of Never Trumpers worked to get themselves nominated to go to the convention in an attempt to head him off if the vote were contested. Now, though, with Cruz and Kasich out of the picture, Trump will likely get the 1,237 delegates necessary to clinch the nomination, and these Trojan horse delegates will not get their chance to head Trump off in a second or third round of voting.
For some, the thought of voting for Trump at the convention is a non-starter, meaning the only solution is not to attend. Indiana GOP delegate Joshua Claybourn announced via Twitter that he would skip the GOP convention because of Trump's impending nomination. He explained the situation:
Because Republicans might have offered the party's first contested convention in a generation, I was excited and honored to be selected as a delegate. However, Donald Trump will clearly control enough delegates to secure the nomination on the first ballot, so the convention will simply be a coronation for him to lead the party and, perhaps, our country.
There's no way around the party rules, he wrote; they would force him to vote for Trump. "I choose not to let that happen. I will neither vote for, nor in any other way support Mr. Trump," he said.
The frustration is felt not just by Claybourn. Another anti-Trump Trojan horse delegate Constantin Querard has been receiving death threats since he first won his place as an Arizona delegate. That will now likely stop, but the respite is bittersweet. As of now he will still be voting in Cleveland, but that might be the last time.
"I'm a lifelong Republican and I love the party," Querard said. "But don't ask me how I'll vote in November. I've been on the receiving end of enough death wishes where it's pretty soon for me to strap on the jersey with any authenticity."
Many more will attend because in the end they weren't terribly excited by a Cruz presidency either. Subba Kolla of Virginia had been for Marco Rubio until he aligned with Cruz during the state convention (although technically he was assigned to vote Trump), but stated that he's a party loyalist. The Washington Post interviewed several others who reluctantly attend in hopes of party unity or to follow the will of the voters.
The only way to attend and have a say in any of it — the party platform, for example — is to cast a vote for Trump. Some will just hold their nose and do it.