“If this was the beginning of a plan to subvert the will of the voters and replace it with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party,” Carson said in a statement that referenced Trump’s repeated threats to leave the GOP if treated “unfairly.”
A third-party run by Carson or Trump would be a worst-case scenario for the GOP. While Carson is slipping in recent polls, an independent bid that siphoned even a few percentage points away from the party’s nominee could make it all but impossible for the Republican nominee to win the general election.
Spokesman Doug Watts said Carson was appalled at reports suggesting that Republican leaders were trying to manipulate the party’s presidential nominating process. He acknowledged that Carson, like Trump and the rest of Republican field, signed a pledge not to launch a third-party bid.
“The pledge isn’t meaningless,” Watts said. “But he signed the pledge based on everybody playing by the rules.”
At least one attendee at the private dinner, which is a regular gathering of leading Republicans in Washington, told The Associated Press that suggestions of manipulation by party leaders were dramatically exaggerated. There was brief discussion of the logistical challenges of running a national convention without a presumptive nominee, the attendee said.
Past practice gives one presidential candidate control of convention planning when he or she emerges as the party’s nominee earlier in the year. Party officials agreed during the private dinner to review contingency plans should multiple candidates remain viable leading into the mid-July convention, according to the same attendee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss a private meeting.
While unlikely, the possibility of a brokered convention is a common topic of conversation for political operatives examining the turbulent 2016 election season.
Such a scenario would play out if none of the Republican candidates accumulate the necessary number of delegates in the state-based primaries by the time the GOP holds its national convention in mid-July.
The last time a brokered convention played out was in 1976.