The pussy-grabbing has done what the myriad other examples of misogyny, racism and astounding incompetence could not: ratchet up demand for Donald Trump to bow out of the presidential race.
But despite calls to action from Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and others, such an exit would be extremely unlikely. Early voting means that more than 34,000 Republican voters have already cast ballots, many of them presumably for Trump, and there’s no clear precedent for how to handle such votes if the candidate were to leave the race. Those votes—and the nomination itself—would not automatically transfer to running mate Mike Pence, as Ballotpedia election analyst Charles Aull told Business Insider. Instead, the party would have to go through a formal process that hasn’t ever been tested.
The Republican National Committee’s official rules of the party lay groundwork for selecting a replacement nominee in specific circumstances: “all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise.” But that “otherwise” is not intended to operate as a broad catch-all, political science expert Josh Putnam told the Washington Post, and the party should not be able to interpret it as “because we want to” (not even, presumably, as “because he’s a disgusting, reckless, xenophobic, sexist liar and we’ve somehow only just noticed”).
In the event that the party was able to claim that they could replace Trump under these rules, they would either have to stage another convention to vote on a replacement (logistical nightmare to the point of essential impossibility) or call for a majority vote of the RNC’s 168-member body, in which each member’s votes would be tied to the population of the state they represent. This process would allow the party to name a replacement, but it still wouldn’t be clear what happens to the votes already cast for Trump or to the already-printed ballots in states whose deadlines have passed.
It’s possible that the party could amend their rules to make the replacement process easier, but that itself would require votes of the entire party and of its rules committee—which could be time-consuming and not necessarily fruitful, according to the Post. And that still leaves the question of what would be done with the tens of thousands of votes already cast for Trump. The Republicans, essentially, have to lie in the bed they’ve made.
Unless, that is, Trump decides to purue the “declination” part of that RNC rule and drop out on his own:
Sunday’s debate should be fun.
UPDATE (11:50 a.m.): Trump shared some thoughts on the subject in an interview with the Post Saturday morning.
“I’d never withdraw. I’ve never withdrawn in my life,” Trump told the Washington Post in a phone call from his home in Trump Tower in New York. “No, I’m not quitting this race. I have tremendous support.”
Because, really, being criticized for your audacious boasts of sexual assault... it’s all just part of life, and he’s been here before.
“I’ve been here before, I’ll tell ya, in life,” Trump said. “I understand life and how you make it through. You go through things. I’ve been through many. It’s called life. And it’s always interesting.”
UPDATE (2:20 p.m.): Even as Trump has doubled down on the idea that he will not withdraw, Politico has reported that some members of the RNC are trying to see whether any alternatives are possible—with lawyers spending the weekend investigating the viability of replacing Trump. Any possible avenue to doing so (i.e., everything described above here) would require “a dizzying amount of litigation,” per The New York Times.
For existing votes to transfer to a new nominee? “It is an exercise of lawyers’ fantasies to imagine the litigation that would take place,” Benjamin Ginsberg, former national counsel for the Mitt Romney and George W. Bush campaigns, told the Times. “You would have to amass an army of lawyers and send them to each state.”