CLEVELAND (AP) — The struggle by conservatives for an 11th-hour derailment of Donald Trump’s drive for the Republican presidential nomination is gasping for breath, although a leader of the effort is promising to fight on — but is shifting her tactics.
Kendal Unruh, the Colorado delegate who authored the proposal to “unbind” delegates, said Friday she’ll no longer try forcing a convention floor showdown on that plan. It would have explicitly allowed delegates to cast a vote of “conscience” and back the contender of their choice.
Unruh cited pressure tactics by Trump campaign and GOP officials for peeling away support for her proposal. But she said she and her allies, citing a belief that they already have a right to vote their conscience, will oppose Trump’s nomination in the gathering’s roll call next week.
“If they think they’ve quelled a rebellion, all they did is kick them in the shins,” she said of the impact GOP leaders’ actions had on her supporters.
The convention’s rules committee, dominated by Trump backers and top national and state GOP officials, used a voice vote late Thursday to reject Unruh’s proposal. A series of related votes underscored the 112-member panel’s one-sided opposition to the conservatives’ drive.
Unruh had previously said she would get the signatures of 28 rules committee members that are required to force a convention vote on her plan. But she said Friday she now believed she would fall short.
Trump backers said the effort to dump Trump is dead.
“It’s over,” GOP chairman Reince Priebus said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“It was never real, it was always overblown,” said Ron Kaufman, a party leader from Massachusetts after Thursday’s late-night vote. “They were never there.”
The rules panel also approved a provision specifically stating that party rules allow delegates to be “bound” to candidates they were committed to by state primaries and caucuses.
Unruh’s amendment became the focal point of furious lobbying that for weeks pitted conservatives against the Trump campaign and top leaders of the Republican Party.
In the end, she encountered overwhelming opposition from delegates arguing that it would be unthinkable for the party to abandon Trump after he overwhelmingly won GOP primaries and caucuses and garnered more than 13 million votes.
While on a path to near-certain victory, Trump has drawn bitter opposition from Republicans who say he’s not conservative and others who predict he will be defeated.
Earlier Thursday, talks between top party officials and social conservatives broke down, which potentially increased the odds of nationally televised clashes next week on other GOP rules. But party leaders said Friday they expect to prevent those issues from blossoming into battles on the convention floor.
The failed talks focused on conservative proposals aimed at appealing to grassroots conservatives that would take power away from Priebus and the Republican National Committee.
Associated Press writer Steve Peoples contributed to this report.