Election rules designed to benefit conservatives have played an unheralded role in pushing the party rightward, while also costing them at the ballot box. The most notable: The party’s practice, in several states, of holding conventions instead of primaries to choose nominees. Those conventions typically draw an unrepresentative cross-section of single-issue activists.
— In Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli‘s allies bypassed the primary process to blunt intraparty opposition, a move that’s contributed to his problems unifying the party. Ironically, the outspoken conservative is belatedly trying to rally the base, something that would have been much easier had he engaged the broader GOP electorate in a primary campaign. The convention also nominated scandal-plagued pastor E.W. Jackson as their LG nominee, thanks to his red-meat convention speech. Assuming he loses, the party lost out on grooming a future GOP gubernatorial candidate for 2017.
— Republicans are facing their next looming crisis in Iowa, for the state’s very-winnable open seat Senate race. A crowded cast of candidates is vying for the GOP nomination, but party rules guarantee a convention if no one hits 35% of the vote. That possibility is growing, with party leaders doing nothing to avert the outcome. A convention would start the process over, raising the likelihood of a weak candidate emerging.
— Republicans won’t have trouble holding a Senate seat in Utah, but Sen. Mike Lee‘s political challenges back home also showcase the party’s concerns over conventions. He benefited from the state’s unique system, where Republicans hold a convention to winnow down candidates before a potential primary. Utah Republican leaders (led by former Gov. Leavitt) are already rallying to shift to an open primary nominating process.
The convention problem only impacts Republicans in a few states, but it’s endemic of the party’s problems nominating electable candidates. And the consequences of election rules benefiting grassroots activists will play a much greater role in the run-up to 2016.
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Paul Ryan told CNN today he's "not ready" to back Donald Trump at this time. "I'm not there right now," he said. Ryan said Trump needs to unify "all wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement" and then run a campaign that will allow Americans to "have something that they're proud to support and proud to be a part of. And we've got a ways to go from here to there."
The Daily Beast has unearthed a piece that Donald Trump wrote for Gear magazine in 2000, which anticipates his 2016 sales pitch quite well. "Perhaps it's time for a dealmaker who can get the leaders of Congress to the table, forge consensus, and strike compromise," he writes. Oddly, he opens by defending his reputation as a womanizer: "The hypocrites argue that a man who loves and appreciates beautiful women (and does so legally and openly) shouldn't become a national leader? Is there something wrong with appreciating beautiful women? Don't we want people in public office who show signs of life?"
An aide to Mitt Romney confirmed to the Washington Post that the 2102 GOP nominee will not attend the Republican convention this year. He joins the two living Republican presidents, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as 2008 nominee John McCain in skipping the event. Even among living Republican nominees, that leaves only Bob Dole who could conceivably show up. Dole did say in January that he'd prefer Trump to Ted Cruz, but his age (92) could keep him from attending.
Sen. Ben Sasse, the most prominent elected official to declare that he's #NeverTrump, wrote an open letter on Facebook to the "majority of Americans who wonder why the nation that put a man on the moon can’t find a healthy leader who can take us forward together." Calling to mind recent conversations at a Fremont, Neb., Walmart, the senator pitted the presumptive general election battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as such a "terrible choice" that there would be an appetite for another candidate to emerge. In a parenthetical aside to reporters, Sasse ruled himself out. "Such a leader should be able to campaign 24/7 for the next six months," he wrote. "Therefore he/she likely can’t be an engaged parent with little kids." Meanwhile, his colleague Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) admitted in a private recording obtained by Politico that Trump hurts his reelection chances.