As I’ve been saying for months, the only way the delegates order off-menu is if the balloting goes way, way, way too long (which I suspect it won’t, but it could). If Trump fails on the first ballot, conventional wisdom holds that he will start leaking delegates, maybe a lot of them. If Cruz can consolidate them, he could win on the second or third ballot. I still think that’s the most likely scenario, which would be fine by me.
But what if Cruz can’t close the deal? Trump hemorrhages delegates but Cruz doesn’t pick up enough of them to get over the top. The balloting goes on. And on. And on. The convention goes days over its allotted time, all on national TV (with Hugh Hewitt screaming into his microphone “I told you so!”).
At some point the psychology on the floor probably changes — as does the psychology of the voters at home. Instead of “My Guy Has To Win” other impulses and motivations come to the fore. “My Guy Has To Get Something” or “Your Guy Has To Lose” start competing with “We’ve Gotta End This Thing” and “We Need Someone Electable in November.” At some point a None-of-the-Abover just might seem pretty attractive to enough delegates. And you know what? That would be fine too. It would certainly be fun to watch. I completely understand why Ted Cruz wants to shut down all of this talk, and given his campaign’s organizational skills and foresight, I suspect he’s doing everything he can to avoid anything like this scenario, as well he should. But the point remains: Conventions can do whatever the attendees of the convention want to do, because that’s how small-“r” republicanism works at the end of a small-“d” democratic process.