J. Randolph Evans, an expert on Republican nominating rules, in past years would have toiled in obscurity and rarely seen the light of day, much less the front of a camera.
These days, as a GOP nominating committee member, he is much in demand as Republicans wrestle with the prospect of a contested convention and consider ways to thwart Donald Trump. Evans already had helped ensure that the primaries started in February instead of January and that the convention was held earlier in hopes of smoothing the process. So much for that.
Now he says that all the talk of changing the rules is beside the point – not because Republicans want to be more transparent, but because it will be too late.
Evans said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last week that 1,100 delegates is the new 1,237 for Republican candidates. In other words, Donald Trump only would need to get to the lower delegate number to clinch the nomination. That’s because once he reaches that threshold – which he’s almost certain to do – unbound delegates will rush to give him the remaining support he needs before the July convention. At that point, party insiders’ desire to stay inside takes over.
Evans determined this thanks to a computer model of election data frompresidential primaries’ final months since 1976.
And Evans isn’t just a random delegate spouting off. In addition to his role on the rules committee, he serves as a national committeeman, on the debate committee and as chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association. And he comes bearing algorithms.
He says that Trump could reach the unstoppable 1,100 number in next Tuesday’s primaries.
Trump wouldn’t have to sweep the night to reach 1,100, just do barely as well as expected. That’s when Evans’ deluge would begin. “Insiders love a winner,” he told me. “Wanting to be on the winning team will take over.”
You don’t have to be a geek with computer models and numbers to see that Evans’s theory makes sense: Delegates want to get something for their support and a delegate gets less for his commitment the less it is needed.
Evans said in the non-smoke-filled rooms where the big decisions are made there’s an acknowledgement that Trump is likely to hit the “real number” he needs to wrap it up earlier than he would have gotten to 1,237. So why embark on a rule change that might bring about the “rough July” Trump is predicting?
For his part, Trump may be trashing the party on the stump, but he’s behaving backstage like he knows he will have all the delegates he needs. With Ted Cruz flailing and the 1,100 number floating around, watch for Trump to stop bad-mouthing the party soon. As Henry Barbour, son of the legendary former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour, put it: “When you want to take a girl to the prom, you don’t tell her the week before she’s ugly.”