Two Ways Donald Trump Could Exit the Presidential Election

August 11th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

What would it take to get Donald Trump off the Republican presidential ticket? As implausible as it might sound, that hypothetical question was reportedly being mulled over by senior GOP officials who've grown increasingly worried about the party nominee's behavior of late.


Experts say a Trump exit could follow two possible routes.

The less messy option would require Trump to voluntarily drop out, ABC News reports. There isn't a way for the Republican National Committee to force its nominee to withdraw from the race, but if Trump willingly stepped down, the RNC would be enabled to pick a successor and re-nominate him or her remotely. They could also hold another convention and nominate an alternative candidate that way.

Here's the RNC bylaw that would allow it to proceed fill Trump's improbable vacancy.

"The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination or otherwise of the Republican candidate for president of the United States or the Republican candidate for vice president of the United States, as nominated by the national convention, or the Republican National Committee may reconvene the national convention for the purpose of filling any such vacancies."

But let's be honest: Trump hasn't indicated in the least that he plans to remove himself from the presidential ticket. He responded to reports of internal strife within his campaign in early August, tweeting "[t]here is great unity in my campaign, perhaps greater than ever before."

Still, there is one potential loophole that could force Trump out without his consent, according to Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford law professor who specializes in election law.

Persily told The Daily Beast that it would be unprecedented and highly unlikely that the RNC would push Trump out of the nominee slot. But it's not impossible. Basically, one word in the RNC bylaw quoted above could allow the committee "to come up with any reason to declare the [presidential nominee] spot vacant." That word is "otherwise."

Per The Daily Beast:

"For example, [the RNC] could, following President Obama, deem [Trump] unfit for office – as in, mentally unfit. Or they could hold a vote of no confidence. No doubt, if Trump is fighting them, that would be a bumpy road, possibly involving litigation. It might be easier for leaders to endorse Gary Johnson and move on. But because of that word 'otherwise,' it’s likely within the RNC’s power to dump Trump even without his consent. Then they would be able to fill the 'vacancy' by majority vote."

Again, it's worth noting that this has never happened before. And the chances of this hypothetical scenario playing out today is comically far-fetched. The real story here is that it's even being considered and discussed among GOP officials — just weeks after Trump received the Republican presidential nomination in an uncontested convention.

But let's carry on. Another obstacle to this re-nomination process would be the technical issue of adjusting state ballots.

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Each state has a deadline for finalizing which candidates appear on their respective ballots. In multiple states, the deadline has already passed, which means Trump's name will appear on the November ballot no matter what. The longer Trump stays in the race, the more difficult it will be to chance course.

The mere inclusion of a candidate's name on a ballot isn't exactly a deciding factor in the election outcome, however. What it really comes down to is the electoral college, which is ultimately responsible for electing candidates. Some states require electors to vote for the candidate who won the state's popular vote, but a greater number of states maintain that electors must vote for the candidate "of the political party or group which they represent," giving the RNC leeway to deem an alternative candidate the party's nominee.

"In sum, right up until Nov. 7, the Republican Party could dump Trump by declaring him unfit for office, reconvening, and nominating someone else," The Daily Beast reports. "But it would get messier depending on how long they wait."

[h/t The Daily Beast]

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