Just weeks ago, there was hope that Ted Cruz and John Kasich would be able to unite to stop Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention. That's now officially not an option, since both suspended their campaigns last week. Yet still, many Republicans far and wide, party officials and grassroots conservatives alike, are not pleased with the idea of Trump as their nominee. So what is the leader of the party to do? Could Paul Ryan block Trump's nomination at the convention?
No, he alone cannot. The Speaker of the House is traditionally the chairman of the Republican National Convention, which gives him a lot of power in how the event is run. Using House rules of parliamentary procedure, the chairman can control what sort of votes are called. The convention chair could prevent divisive votes that would harm Donald Trump and/or the GOP.
The big fight at the convention will likely come down to the party platform. This is something that the delegates are free to vote for based on their conscience — no matter who they are bound to by the primaries. Many Ted Cruz supporters are hoping to ensure that some more controversial conservative measures make the platform.
For example, they would ensure the anti-abortion plank does not have any exceptions for rape or incest. They may also go for a plank supporting a ban on transgender folk using restrooms that align with their gender identities. Ryan, as chairman of the convention, could keep some of those votes from coming up.
The big question, then, is whether he would stop votes that would make Trump look bad, make the GOP look bad, or both. This is why a presumptive nominee wants to have someone close to him in the role. But it doesn't look as Ryan is going to try to sideline Trump at the convention. On Monday, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he would do whatever Trump wants in terms of the convention — even step down as the chair.
So even if it were possible to sideline Trump at the nomination, it's not Ryan's M.O. But while he cannot, there is arguably a group of people who could. In addition to the platform, the delegates are free to vote their conscience on the convention rules. They are not decided until July, when the convention gets rolling. That group could pass some sort of rule aimed at keeping Trump out of the running. In the past, Rule 40(b) was used to consolidate support for Mitt Romney. This time, they could pass a rule which requires all candidates to have voted in a Republican primary two or three times, which would eliminate Trump. Petitions have been circulating online asking the Republican establishment to block him at the convention.
In addition to the platform, Cruz's supporters want to control the committee governing the rules. Ken Cuccinelli, the Cruz campaign's former delegate wrangler, who is organizing the push, emailed pro-Cruz delegates saying they want to "discuss what we can do at the convention to protect against liberal changes to our platform, and how we can right the wrongs in the rules from 2012!"
Again, no clear signs of putting in place a rule that would block Trump. That's probably in the GOP's best interest. More than six in 10 GOP voters think the nomination should go to the party's leader in delegates, which would be Donald Trump. And at this rate, he'll probably have the majority, making any block truly problematic politically for the Republicans.
That doesn't mean Trump's guaranteed smooth sailing at the convention, though. The platform fight could be a doozy for him. Some of his popular policy positions, like protecting medicare and making NATO members pay their share of defense costs, could come up for a vote.
There's also talk of pushing Trump's vice-presidential pick off the rails if the conservative delegates don't approve of his choice. They aren't bound to accept who he puts forward. So the convention may still be fairly dramatic — just not to the point where Trump doesn't leave the winner.