fb-pixel Skip to main content

CLEVELAND — The Republican National Convention erupted into chaos Monday afternoon with delegates chanting and counter-chanting, shouting and pointing fingers. One person tried to storm the stage before a security guard stopped him.

It was a scene reminiscent of the raucous national political conventions of yesteryear — not the calm, made-for-television coronations that these party confabs have become.

Wait, what happened?

It’s no secret that there are forces inside the Republican Party who are not happy that Donald Trump is their party’s presumptive presidential nominee. When their attempts to stop Trump failed in the primary, the #NeverTrump movement and its allies set their sights on the convention. Their goal? Prevent Trump from getting enough support — 1,237 delegates — to win the nomination on the floor.


To do this, the anti-Trump Republicans had to ensure those delegates bound to Trump under each state’s primary or caucus rules could be free to select another nominee during a floor voice vote. But Republicans require a rules change to have such a vote.

Technically, Republicans set the rules for every convention at the beginning of it, so that’s possible. But the rules rarely change from each GOP convention to the next, and anti-Trump forces were not able to change the rules of this convention during meetings last week.

So people were getting upset about a wonky rules change?

By Monday, this wasn’t necessarily about the rules, or even thwarting Trump’s nomination anymore. At this point, Trump would win a roll call vote from the floor in all likelihood.

Rather, anti-Trump efforts to push for a roll call vote were intended to serve as a test vote to signal whether or not Trump would control this convention — something every Republican nominee has done since 1980.

Oh, they wanted a test vote. So what would that do?

The anti-Trump people believed that they had enough signatures to force a roll call vote that would mark, for history, who was with or against Trump at this convention.


Did the anti-Trump delegates pull it off?

Convention officials said that they didn’t have enough support under the convention rules to prompt such a delegate voice vote on the floor. The anti-Trump delegates disagreed with this. There were chants for “roll call vote” and “USA, USA” and “we want Trump.” Some of the delegates stormed out of the arena.

Chaos erupted for a second time in the matter of an hour at the Quicken Loans Arena.

Who were the anti-Trump folks leading this protest?

For the most part they were delegates who backed US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich (neither of these Republicans have endorsed Trump).

The anti-Trump movement especially caught on among delegates in Colorado, Iowa, Utah, Minnesota and Wyoming. Many of these states didn’t vote for Trump on the primary season.

So is the fight over?

On Tuesday we expect the convention to officiate a roll call of the states — not individual delegates — with leaders from each state saying how they voted.

At this point, there could be some delegates who make a public show over contesting their state’s results. But current rules bind these delegates to their state rules, which in most cases means many delegates are going for Trump. If a delegate protests, they will just be replaced by an alternate.

Here’s the worst-case scenario for convention organizers tomorrow: Trump delegates could delay the roll call of states for hours.

What does this mean going forward?

In the big picture, maybe not a lot. Trump’s team are in control on the convention. Trump’s preferred speakers will have primetime slots, including his wife, who will address the arena Monday evening.


Unless something completely unexpected happens, Trump will almost certainly accept the nomination on Thursday.

But the shouting episode underscored the tense atmosphere at the GOP convention, which had only been running for four hours. It’s additional proof that the GOP’s divisiveness could carry on through this week and the campaign beyond.

James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell. Click here to subscribe to his daily e-mail update on the 2016 campaign.