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The Riggs Report: Conflict in Cleveland

Contested GOP convention looms

As if there hasn’t been nearly enough drama and conflict in this year’s race for the White House, the voting this week in Ohio means that we are likely headed to a contested Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer.

We haven’t witnessed that kind of political struggle since 1976, when former California Gov. Ronald Reagan challenged President Gerald Ford at the convention in Kansas City.

Ford entered the convention without the necessary number of delegates, but prevailed after a bitter behind-the-scenes struggle. He won the nomination, but lost the White House in November to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

This week, John Kasich’s win in his home state of Ohio has kept his campaign alive, while breathing new life into the anti-Donald Trump movement within the GOP.

In keeping with that development, Kasich’s campaign is saying it fully expects that no candidate will have the delegates needed to clinch the nomination by the time the convention starts in July.

If no one can claim the nomination on the first ballot in Cleveland, that would spark a nasty and tumultuous showdown on the convention floor, as the three remaining candidates—Trump, Ted Cruz and Kasich—try to assemble a winning coalition that reaches the magic number of 1,237 delegates.

Things would get ugly in a hurry, both inside and outside the convention hall.

It works this way: A large number of delegates are pledged to vote for a certain candidate at the convention. If a second round of balloting is needed, many of those delegates are released from that obligation and can vote for whomever they choose.

There could be other rule changes, making the outcome even more uncertain. That’s why speculation has surfaced about a surprise nominee, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, emerging from the chaos.

Ryan, for the record, told CNBC this week that he’s not interested.

“I actually think you should run for president if you’re going to be president, if you want to be president,” Ryan said. “I’m not running for president.”

Trump, in the meantime, told CNN on Wednesday, “I think you’d have riots” if a contested convention denied him the nomination in July.

Conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt has long talked about the likelihood of a contested convention. Speaking Wednesday in Sacramento, Hewitt predicted a GOP defeat this fall if Trump is the nominee, despite his primary wins.

“He is a tractor beam for the disappointed, and there are a lot of disappointed people in America,” Hewitt said. “I don’t think he’s electable, absent an indictment of Hillary Clinton.”