- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 14, 2016

CLEVELAND — Republican leaders scrambled Thursday to defuse flare-ups that threatened unity ahead of their national convention next week, slapping down an effort to free delegates to vote for someone else other than presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Reports that Mr. Trump was planning to name conservative Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate swept through Cleveland, where delegates were hashing out last-minute rules changes.

The New York billionaire announced late Thursday that he was postponing his announcement after a deadly terrorist attack in France. Mr. Trump told Fox News he had not made his final pick.

In the meantime, dissension was evident throughout the day as Mr. Priebus failed to strike a deal with insurgent delegates over a plan to limit primary participation to Republicans.

But the Trump campaign and the RNC, meanwhile, beat back the efforts to free delegates who are “bound” to vote for Mr. Trump on the first ballot - at least for now

Donald Trump can win this election and be our next president of the United States, but in order to do that we need to allow the record number of Republican voters who voted for Donald Trump in our primary to have their voice heard and that mean honoring the rules and the commitment of our party to bind the delegates to make their vote county,” said Matt Hall, a rules committee member from Michigan.

Another faction demanded a rules change to close future primaries so only registered Republicans can vote — a way to head off a repeat of Mr. Trump’s success this year. But that effort also died in committee.

“This is absolutely focused on moving the Republican Party to a position where it is friendlier to the grass-roots conservatives that really make up the heart of this party,” said Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general who called for closed primaries.

He spent hours huddling with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Kendra Unruh, a Colorado delegate who drove the effort to unbind delegates and thwart Mr. Trump.

The billionaire businessman won more than enough bound delegates in the primaries to secure the nomination, but many of the people occupying those slots — who are bound by party rules to back Mr. Trump — do not favor him.

Ms. Unruh’s proposal failed on a voice vote - though the effort could be revived if supporters can garner signatures from 28 of the  112 from committee members needed to produce a “minority” report and push the issue onto the floor of the convention next week.

Party stalwarts insisted that the insurgents won’t win their fight.

Steve Munisteri, former chairman of the Texas Republican Party and member of the rules committee, said the “dump Trump” effort is dead.

Donald Trump will be the nominee,” Mr. Munisteri said. “Nothing will alter the outcome.”

Curly Haugland of North Dakota said the problem facing the anti-Trump forces is that they have not offered an alternative.

“Now we’ve got a track and we have one horse, and we can’t have a race with one horse,” Mr. Haugland said.

Sean Spicer, an RNC spokesman, meanwhile, said Mr. Priebus walked away from the talks with Mr. Cuccinelli because he and his allies kept changing their demands.

“Negotiating isn’t giving in to everything everyone wants,” Mr. Spicer said. “The majority of the delegates believe that the rules that are getting passed right now are representative of grass-roots voters.”

That rules-writing panel also rejected proposals to ban lobbyists from serving on the Republican National Committee and to scrap the RNC’s power to rewrite party rules between conventions.

The insurgents said those were ominous signs.

“I am always concerned about any proposal or any existing rule that seems to tend to allow one group of people or one person to accumulate too much power,” said Sen. Mike Lee, a member of the rules panel who also supported the conscience amendment.

“I think we can spot a certain trend that has evolved today — a trend to not pass those amendments that tend to disperse power,” he said.

Some party leaders were hoping Mr. Trump’s vice presidential selection would quell the intraparty ruckus.

Although the Trump campaign said no final decision had been made and the candidate was still deciding among former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Mr. Pence, all signs pointed to Mr. Pence.

Republicans on Capitol Hill said Mr. Pence, who served alongside them for more than a decade before he won the Indiana governorship, would be unifying. Several called him a “conservative’s conservative.”

Delegates to the convention were likewise enthusiastic.

Mike Pence would bring a wealth of experience to the ticket in terms of governance and legislative processes,” said Steve Yates, chairman of the Idaho Republican Party. “He is very well-regarded in conservative circles and very well-liked among many who have worked with him over the years. He would likely be seen as a reassuring pick to many Republican voters.”

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