As of this moment, Donald Trump has 736 delegates and is (mostly) smoothly sailing to the nomination with Ted Cruz almost 273 behind him at 463. However, there is suddenly an all too real chance that 273 lead can melt to as little as 173 with Trump's delegate count dropping by 50 as a result of what happened during this week's CNN townhall meeting when as previously reported, Trump reneged on his pledge to support the GOP candidate. The reason is that by doing so, he may have jeopardized his hold on South Carolina’s 50 delegates.
As Time reports, the Palmetto State was one of several that required candidates to pledge their loyalty to the party’s eventual nominee in order to secure a slot on the primary ballot. Though Trump won all of the state’s 50 delegates in the Feb. 20 primary, anti-Trump forces are plotting to contest their binding to Trump because of his threat on the pledge Tuesday.
The loyalty pledge is nothing new in South Carolina, where it has been required for decades, but took on new focus in light of Trump’s public musings about a third party run or withdrawing his support from the eventual nominee if he is stopped at a contested convention.
As a reminder, when asked about if he still would pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee during a town hall Tuesday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Trump said “No. I don’t anymore,” adding that he has been “treated very unfairly.”
As Time adds, while Trump has been hiring staff to ensure he hangs on to delegates in what could be a messy convention fight, the latest threat appears to be an error on his part.
South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore gave credence to the anti-Trump claims: "Breaking South Carolina’s presidential primary ballot pledge raises some unanswered legal questions that no one person can answer," he told Time. "However, a court or national convention Committee on Contests could resolve them. It could put delegates in jeopardy."
More from Time:
When Trump filed for the ballot in South Carolina he signed a pledge stating to “hereby affirm that I generally believe in and intend to support the nominees and platform of the Republican Party in the November 8, 2016 general election.”
South Carolina has yet to select delegates to the convention and it is a state where Trump may already be on the defensive with delegates. South Carolina delegates to the national convention must have been delegates or alternates to the state’s 2015 GOP convention, a requirement that benefits candidates who appeal to the establishment.
Those delegates would be bound to Trump on the first ballot according to state and RNC rules. The challenge, which could only be filed once delegates are selected, would seek to allow them to be free-agents on the first ballot, thereby keeping Trump further from the key 1,237 figure he needs to secure the nomination. Similar challenges could also be filed in other states that added loyalty pledges.
The news of the potential loss of delegates came as Trump met with RNC chairman Reince Priebus Thursday. Trump said afterward he had a "nice meeting" to talk about party unity with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. "Looking forward to bringing the party together," Trump said on Twitter. "And it will happen!"
Priebus said the meeting was scheduled days ago and included a discussion about the process heading into the party's July convention in Cleveland. "We did talk about unity and working together and making sure when we go to Cleveland, and come out of Cleveland, that we're working in the same direction," Priebus told the Fox News Channel.
That said, Priebus will surely be delighted by the prospect of Trump losing 50 votes and making a convention that much more likely.
Then again, if Trump is about to lose his delegates for reneging on his South Carolina pledge, then what about Ted Cruz whose response when asked if he would support Trump was that he "is not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks [his] wife and family." That sounds like a no to us. Or how about Kasich who said "if the nominee is somebody who's hurting the country and dividing the country I can't stand behind him", which is another no.
Or is this just one more of those times when Trump does not do the "political thing" and gives an unequivocal answer to a question to which everyone else implicitly responded the same way, and will now have to deal with the fall out. The answer, most unequivocally, is yes.