Republican nominee and female genitalia grabber Donald Trump tweeted a strangely straightforward, perhaps unintentionally honest sentence Saturday morning: “Certainly has been an interesting 24 hours!” “Interesting” is quite the understatement: Since recordings emerged of the candidate discussing women in a nauseating way, the political world has been up-ended. The fallout has been swift, but with exactly one month to go before Election Day, it’s unclear if the Republican Party can get rid of him. Even if they could, no one knows exactly what will happen if the RNC dumps Trump, and that’s the scariest thing of all.
This is not the first time Trump’s poor performance has prompted speculation about how the party of “family values” could perform their own internal “repeal and replace” of the bombastic candidate. Even after the #NeverTrump movement failed at the RNC in July and Trump was formally nominated, observers watching Trump’s numbers plummet in early August as he picked a fight with the family of slain U.S. solider Humayun Khan wondered aloud about the mechanisms for removing Trump from the ballot. Back then, there was still time to reconvene the RNC, pick a new candidate, and get the new candidate on the ballot in all 50 states.
With 31 days to go, the logistics get a lot trickier. A few facts are inarguable: A lot of people have already voted, with estimates ranging from the tens of thousands to nearly half a million. What would be done with these votes? Let people re-vote? Throw them out?
Moreover, ballots all over the country have already been printed — even if the RNC was able to get someone to stand-in for Trump, asking voters to pull the lever (or punch the chad) for Trump “in name only” might be a taller order than they think.
Even if they were able to amass a campaign for a Mike Pence write-in vote, according to the Elect Project, over 5,000 Florida Republicans have already voted (not counting the absentee ballots in the mail). Mitt Romney lost Florida in 2012 by only 75,000 votes — the close margins matter.
The other thing to consider is that the Republican electorate doesn’t vote as a bloc, and even now, there are still those out there who are supporting the Donald, and most likely, many millions of voters who will proudly vote for him on Election Day. Even if the RNC was able to get past all the bureaucratic logistics of getting Trump off the ballot, the divide between pro- and anti-Trump factions within the Republican Party would splinter their vote, and could potentially hand Democrat Hillary Clinton a landslide victory (assuming she’s not heading toward one already).
Still, the amount of uncertainty has me on edge. As long as Trump was doing middlingly poorly, I could rest somewhat easy in the hopes that Clinton would be able to handily win. Now that he’s cratering, the entire political calculus is inverting itself, and it’s tricky to know what exactly will shake out — especially if the RNC did decide to dump Trump.