A little know GOP rule was put into place in 2011, to help Mitt Romney secure the nomination and prevent an outsider like Ron Paul from using delegate tricks to become the nominee or force a brokered convention: Rule 40b.
The rule is now haunting the GOP establishment as they watch their party apparatus getting dominated by Trump, and Trump beating them with their own rules to prevent such an occurrence from happening.
In Layman’s terms:
The Rule prevents a candidate who does not meet a qualifying threshold (which only Trump has reached) from being considered on the Second Ballot.
In short: The establishment cannot stop Trump. It’s over.
Technically, most of the analysts citing Rule 40 are referring to the current version of Rule 40(b), which sets a certain minimum threshold for candidates at the Republican National Convention. According to this rule, candidates must arrive at the convention with a majority of the delegates from eight states or territories, or else they are disqualified from the first round. In most elections, this is a mere formality because the clear winner of the nomination is well-known before the convention begins, making the convention an extended infomercial for the party and its nominee.
Of course, there is good reason to suspect the Republican convention will be rather more exciting this year. Gidley noted there is apprehension among front-runner Donald Trump’s supporters that the GOP Establishment will use some “shenanigans” to “steal” the nomination from him at the convention. Among those shenanigans could be changing Rule 40 to bring candidates who don’t meet the established minimum threshold into the game.
There are two ghosts from the 2012 election haunting the Shakespearean drama of the 2016 primary, and Gidley invoked them both in a single breath: Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.
“This is actually called the ‘Ron Paul Rule.’ The Romney people put this in place,” Gidley explained. “The Establishment hurt Ron Paul, but I think this Establishment rule will actually help Donald Trump.”
Rule 40 “was an effort to stop the Ron Paul faction from gaining traction at the convention,” Gidley recalled. “And now we see the fruits of that rule, which was designed to stop Ron Paul, could effectively stop the Establishment.”
“The second part of the rule is, you can’t even count votes for anybody else who doesn’t meet that threshold,” he pointed out. “So people can try to submit votes for other people — like Kasich, or like Rubio, or like Romney — but if you haven’t won a majority of the delegates in eight states, you can’t be on any ballot, at any time. First, second, third, fourth, fifth — it doesn’t matter.”
It has been suggested that the Rules Committee will simply change Rule 40 to arrange whatever outcome is necessary to block Trump, but Gidley was skeptical of this idea. Normally, a presumptive candidate who has reached the “magic number” of bound delegates needed to secure the nomination can control the rules. If Trump is held below that 1,237-delegate threshold this year, the Rules Committee could theoretically rewrite the rules to hurt him, but Gidley anticipated sheer chaos if such tactics were employed.