Donald Trump is on the cusp of formally being proclaimed the 2016 Republican presidential nominee as convention delegates hold a state-by-state vote that will add a historic exclamation mark to his stunning outsider campaign.
The roll call vote began shortly after 6 p.m. ET.
Forces that oppose Trump’s nomination have been working delegates to organize protests to voice their displeasure with Trump and the process that brought him to this moment.
There is talk in the Quicken Loans Arena of a possible walkout by some state delegations. Others may move to ask to poll their delegations, a move that would essentially draw out the proceedings.
The efforts raise the specter of a second straight day of floor protests highlighting the divisions in the GOP and breaking the peace of the convention, which is normally a tightly scripted affair to present the nominee and party in the best possible light.
The roll call vote started after an effort to place the name of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz into nomination fizzled. Cruz is the only other candidate who qualified under the rules requiring candidates to get a majority of delegates in eight states in order to be in contention for the nomination.
The air went out of a possible Cruz nomination Tuesday afternoon, and Cruz’s inner circle was adamantly opposed to putting the senator’s name in nomination, a senior Cruz adviser tells CNN.
“We’re not encouraging it. We’re actually trying to stop it,” the adviser said.
This person added there would be no chance Cruz shows up Tuesday and gives a speech, noting that Cruz already has a speaking slot Wednesday night.
Trump’s victory is not in doubt. The party’s rules approved Monday make clear that delegates are bound by primary results if their state requires it. Trump has roughly 300 more delegates than he needs to clinch the nomination and will officially be the party’s nominee once 1,237 of the delegates cast their ballot in his favor.
The roll call will proceed alphabetically, with states announcing their votes for Trump, Cruz and the other candidates along the way. Certain states will also pass on the first go-around in order to give Trump’s home state of New York the honor of putting the real estate mogul over the top. Donald Trump, Jr., is expected to make the announcement.
Trump’s team is monitoring delegates to quell any kind of rebellion, with a team of whips on the floor.
The Trump delegate brain trust is holed up in a skybox inside the convention center where they can literally track the movement of delegates and whips as the roll is called.
Neon green hats worn by the junior whips makes it easier to see them from high up and then direct their movement. If they spot trouble on the floor they can act fast.
Trump’s name was put into nomination by Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, an early supporter of the businessman.
“We have gotten off course and the American people know it,” Sessions said in his speech, warning that crime was rising, terrorist attacks were proliferated, and Congress was deadlocked, arguing that Trump was the only answer.
“The American voters heard his message and they rewarded his courage and his leadership with a huge victory in our primaries,” Sessions said, drawing raucous cheers from Trump fans on the convention floor.
“He loves his country and he is determined to see it be a winner again,” Sessions said. “Donald Trump is the singular leader that can get this country back on track. He has the strength, the courage the will to get it done.”
The nomination was seconded with speeches by fellow early supporters New York Rep. Chris Collins and South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster.
Trump’s roll call will be followed by the nomination and vote for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as the vice presidential nominee.
Along with putting Cruz’s name into nomination, another symbolic move would be for delegates to announce their votes for other candidates besides Trump. Regardless of any such announcement from a delegation, GOP rules make clear that the secretary of the convention must count votes as they are meant to be cast, and delegates can request that each member of their state be polled when the vote is taken. Therefore, if there are 20 votes bound for Trump from a state, the convention secretary will record 20 votes, even if the delegation announces otherwise.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, asked about the effort to put Cruz’s name in nomination, said “I am not worried” about it, because it would not change the process or the outcome even if it succeeded.
South Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows said he has only heard about the pro-Cruz push from journalists.
“I haven’t heard anything about it and I would,” Meadows said. “I was a big Cruz guy.”
Should there be any disruption, it would be the second day of floor protests at the convention.
The Monday afternoon session briefly devolved into chaos as the rules were adopted. Groups fighting the rules on two separate fronts had turned in a petition signed by enough delegates to require an embarrassing and protracted roll call vote on the rules themselves.
But the RNC and Trump campaign whipped the vote during a brief delay in proceedings and enough delegates pulled out that the effort failed — sparking a roar of boos and chants of “roll call vote” from angry delegates who stood on their chairs and shouted their displeasure.
The RNC and Trump campaign do not want a similar display to erupt during Trump’s final coronation. While the RNC could allow the delegates to place Cruz in nomination as an olive branch, they could just as easily find a number of delegates with a sudden change of heart at the last minute again.
“They will say they have the signatures, and we’ll see if they do,” said CNN contributor Mike Shields, who is a former RNC chief of staff.