The leaked video of Donald Trump’s crude comments on women has prompted a handful of prominent Republicans to demand that the national party replace him as its presidential nominee. But their efforts are almost certainly in vain.
While a never-before-invoked Republican National Committee rule gives party leaders the authority to choose a new nominee, committee members are so far showing no appetite for using it — despite calls to do so by elected officials including Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former New Hampshire Sen. Gordon Humphrey.
“No one I’ve spoken with is in agreement with those you’ve mentioned,” said West Virginia RNC Committeewoman Melody Potter, in an email. “My opinion, Trump should NOT be replaced.”
“These same people need to yell for Hillary to be replaced since she is under investigation for her disappearing e-mails while she was Secretary of State,” Potter added.
Illinois RNC Committeewoman Demetra DeMonte was even more succinct: “Absolutely not,” she said, when asked if she agreed with Kirk’s call.
Reports emerged Friday evening suggesting RNC staffers were huddling to discuss options should Trump drop out or be replaced on the ticket, but officials quickly doused those suggestions.
“Your sources are wrong. There is no meeting,” RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer tweeted at a reporter late Friday after the initial news broke.
The RNC rule that authorizes a replacement nominee gives the committee power “to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise.” The word ‘otherwise’ has been interpreted by some to give the RNC wiggle room to force out a sitting nominee if it chooses. A majority vote of the committee would then choose a new nominee.
Conservative attorney Jim Bopp, a close ally of the RNC, said he doesn’t believe the word “otherwise” authorizes the RNC to drop Trump proactively.
“This sentence only empowers the RNC to fill vacancies, not create them,” he said, suggesting that the removal of a candidate by a court would fit the description. “The power to create a vacancy is a separate and independent power from the power to fill vacancies and that power would have to be conferred on the RNC by a specific rule, which does not exist.
But even if it were an option, any interest in that option faces a daunting reality: People are already voting.
Absentee ballots have been mailed by the hundreds of thousands — if not millions — already, and early voting has begun in a handful of states. Trump’s name is on the ballot in all of them. In addition, there are just 31 days left until Election Day — and it would take time for the RNC to convene a meeting, which would have no guarantee of consensus.
If RNC members did replace Trump, voters would still likely have to cast their ballots for him and let members of the Electoral College reconcile that with the party’s replacement nominee.
Former New Hampshire Sen. Gordon Humphrey said the party should pursue that route to protect its down-ballot candidates from Trump’s potential drag.
“You know, Trump is so deficient in so many ways that it’s impossible to find one clinical word that covers all of those deficiencies. But I’ve come up with one: he’s a creep. He is morally depraved. He is a nasty SOB in the way he treats others and speaks of others. He is an unfeeling cad,” said Humphrey, who helped lead the failed attempt at July’s Republican National Convention to dislodge Trump as the party’s nominee.
“I call upon Reince Priebus, as Trump’s principal enabler to resign and for the RNC to meet in emergency session and to strip Donald Trump of the nomination.”
Priebus, who’s slated to be with Trump in New York Saturday for an unscheduled day of debate prep (Trump had been planning to appear with House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin until Ryan revoked his invitation Friday) issued a terse statement condemning Trump’s comments.
“No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever,” he said.