Jon Karl, chief White House correspondent for ABC News, has reported that Republican leaders are “actively exploring” contingency plans in the event that Donald Trump drops out of the presidential race.
The news comes in the wake of what is perhaps the most erratically unpredictable few days in the famously turbulent Trump campaign, in which the Republican presidential nominee and his campaign has insulted veterans, loved ones of slain soldiers, victims of sexual harassment, top Republican leaders, and even a baby in a little over 24 hours.
While Trump has expressed no public desire to drop out, GOP leaders have become terrified by his unpredictable nature, Karl reports:
“First of all, I am told RNC chairman Reince Priebus is furious, that he has had multiple discussions with Trump telling him he needs to drastically change course. But here’s the news: I am told senior officials at the party are actively exploring what would happen if Trump dropped out, how to replace him on the ballot… He is so unpredictable right now, they are so unable to control his message, that they just don’t know and clearly think it is a possibility, which is why they’re looking at these rules.”
In an email, Trump campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks wrote, “There is no truth to this whatsoever.”
However, there have been multiple reports of tensions within the ranks of the Trump campaign, with GOP sources telling CNN that many in the campaign “feel like they are wasting their time,” while others were even more frank.
A nominee dropping out of the race would be “new territory” that could potentially lead to a long term disenfranchisement with the Republican party and even the efficiency of the electoral process, according to Princeton political historian Julian Zelizer.
“The next election cycle, people would be very uncertain and uneasy about whether the nomination process is going to work,” Zelizer said. “It’s possible to imagine but we’re not there yet.”
There is no system in place enabling the party to force Trump out of the nomination following the convention, so he would have to exit voluntarily. It would fall on the 168 members of the Republican National Committee to decide a replacement in the event Trump voluntarily exits the race.