July’s Republican Convention in Cleveland could very well be filled with protesters and strife… and that is if there isn’t a contested convention. Should Republicans enter Cleveland without a candidate having secured the 1,237 delegates required to be the GOP presidential nominee, the pressure on delegates to either vote for or against Donald Trump will be immense. Trump has already threatened that if he is not made the GOP nominee, his supporters would riot if their will were overturned. Yet, the exit polls in Super Tuesday 2.0 showed that Republican voters, between 35-45 percent of them depending on the state, would vote for a third party candidate if the race were between Trump and Hillary Clinton. This is an alarming statistic for any Republican, as it means the race would essentially be handed to Hillary Clinton.
Aside from his wink to supporters about rioting, the delegates at the Republican National Convention will need to be convinced to vote for Trump on the second ballot. This is an opportunity for Trump to finally show his self-proclaimed “strength,” his ability to make “deals.” The author of The Art of The Deal is clearly at an advantage over his rivals. This skill will be vital as delegates will have a hard time being convinced to vote for a man who is losing in every key state by double digits.
Adding to the complications faced by Trump is the Republican National Convention’s Rules Committee, which does not even exist until after the last primary in June. This committee, made up of 112 men and women representing all 50 states and six territories, is the key body for any candidate to win over in order to secure the nomination from the convention floor. The rules committee has the right to throw out the rules that allow states to award their delegates via winner takes all (i.e. Florida’s 99 delegates that went to Trump could be reallocated) or even set the threshold for placing a candidate’s name into nomination. These 112 Republicans could usher in the compromise candidate just by how they decide the convention should proceed.
So what should Trump do to avoid this? He is going to have to grow up and become a real candidate of substance and manners, fast. With each and every utterance of ridiculous and divisive statements, Trump sows the seeds of his own demise at a contested convention. From the start, Trump has found ways to insult almost every key voting bloc. Among Hispanics and women, Trump is less popular than the Zika Virus. It is driving these voters into the arms of Clinton and potential rules committee members into the arms of the to be named savior candidate (Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Ben Sasse and others that would be able to unite the Republican Party).
The more people see Trump using terms such as “dogs” to refer to women, or the more he attacks women natural biological characteristics such as menstruation to cover for his own inability to answer serious questions, the more likely women will turn away from Trump and, by virtue of association, the Republican Party. He was presented an opportunity to mend fences with women when in less than a week, his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski was accused of assaulting the reporter Michelle Fields along with having a long history of referring to women in derogatory terms. Trump could have reprimanded Lewandowski or even fired him, but instead, he chose to take a different path: Trump had Lewandowski standing right behind him on stage Tuesday night. It gave credence to Democrats’ false accusation that the GOP has a “War on Women.”
Trump needs to go even further than ceasing his childish tantrums, lack of a verbal filter and enabling those close to him to treat women like dirt. He must outline substantive policies and plans for America. Doing so will help him win the GOP nomination and perhaps even convince the nearly 50 percent of Republicans who say that they will not vote for him in the general election to support him.
Of course, Trump won’t moderate his tone and act more presidential. He can’t. His entire campaign is based on anger and division. He whips his supporters up into a frenzy by telling them who is to blame for their problems, while promising them unachievable things. When you strip that away, Trump and his campaign are nothing.
Without substance and the behavior of a decent human being, delegates and member of the Republican National Convention’s Rules Committee will have a hard time backing Trump in a contested convention. And Trump will have only himself to blame for his failure.
Evan Siegfried, a Republican strategist and columnist, is president of Somm Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter at @evansiegfried