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GOP rules committee ditches ‘Dump Trump’

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CLEVELAND — The Republican Rules Committee shot down the “Dump Trump” movement Thursday night, endorsing a rule that binds delegates to vote for the candidate they’re pledged to.

The committee voted 87-12 for a rule that commits all delegates to vote for the candidate they were pledged to vote for. The abrupt adoption, which came after little debate, appeared to be a major setback, if not outright defeat of the campaign to let delegates at the convention next week vote their conscience.

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Barriers divide Ninth Street in Cleveland, marking the secure zone near the Quicken Loans Arena. The arena is the site of next week’s Republican National Convention.

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“Donald Trump won overwhelmingly,” said Matt Hall, delegate from Michigan. “We have rules that those voters came to the polls in reliance on those rules, which included binding. It’s clear to me we have an obligation to honor that commitment. I fully intend to support Mr. Trump.”

Among those voting against adopting the rule was Mike Lee, a U.S. senator from Utah.

The pro-Trump drift on the committee was sealed a few minutes later when the committee defeated an amendment that would have assured delegates they had the right to vote their consciences.

Earlier, a group of Republican delegates fought unsuccessfully to weaken the power of the national chairman during the first day of the GOP’s rules committee Thursday.

The amendments were aimed at reining in the chairman’s power to make appointments, spend money, and change convention rules.

The rules allow one-quarter, or 28 members, of the 112-member rules committee, to sign a “minority report” in support of a clause that would allow delegates to vote their conscience, rather than be bound to the vote of their state’s Republican voters, and have it brought up on the convention floor on Monday.

After Thursday night’s vote it appeared unlikely there would be a floor fight at the convention starting Monday over Mr. Trump’s nomination.

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Earlier in the day, the Trump organization predicted the outcome.

“I’m not worried at all. There’s not going to be a minority report,” Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said as he walked through the Convention Center of Cleveland, where the Rules Committee met. 

In proceedings Thursday, members of the committee who supported the dozen or so failed amendments insisted they had no beef with Chairman Reince Priebus — or with Mr. Trump, whom Mr. Priebus declared as the presumptive nominee in May while Mr. Trump was still short of the 1,237 delegates he needs to win on the first ballot.

One of the biggest fights of the day was whether to delete the RNC’s Rule 12. The rule allows the Republican National Committee to make changes midway between conventions, instead of only during the convention itself. Rule 12 requires the support of three-fourths of the RNC members.

Sponsor Morton Blackwell of Virginia called it “the worst of the 2012 power grabs of the Romney campaign,” referring to the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. He said the super majority is meaningless because he contended the RNC chairman could always get three-fourths of the RNC to support him if he wants to change the rules.

He and others said the Republican Party prides itself on being a party controlled by the grassroots.

Others rejected the change saying the party needs the flexibility to change quickly, and can’t always wait four years to tweak the rules.

“We’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” said Delegate Jordan Ross of Nevada. 

Senator Lee said the series of defeats was an obvious trend: “toward not passing those amendments that tend to disperse power.”

The amendment to delete Rule 12 was defeated by a counted vote of 86-23 — notably short of the 28 votes needed to put a “minority report” on that issue before the full convention on Monday.

An amendment to give a 20-percent delegate bonus to states that use a closed primary — in which only Republicans are allowed to vote — was defeated 32-73.

Also Thursday, Mr. Priebus and Ohio Republican Chairman Matt Borges announced that Cuyahoga County businessman Edward Crawford will be the finance chairman for the GOP campaign in Ohio — including for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Crawford is a delegate to the convention pledged to Gov. John Kasich. His service as the finance chairman is seen as a show of solidarity even though the entire 66-member Ohio delegation is pledged to vote for Mr. Kasich on the first ballot Tuesday.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058 or on Twitter @TomFTroy.

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