Donald Trump Warns of 'Riots' If Republicans Force a Contested Convention

The Republican frontrunner said that "bad things will happen" if the party tries to usurp the nomination from him at the Cleveland convention in July.
March 16, 2016, 6:05pm
Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP

Donald Trump continued to rile up his closest frenemy — the Republican Party — on Wednesday, warning GOP leaders that they could have riots on their hands if they reject their frontrunner and tried to lock him out of the nomination at a contested convention.

Some leaders in the Republican Party have begrudgingly accepted the increasingly likely possibility that the billionaire businessman will lead the party in the general election. But other segments of the party, including Trump's presidential rivals, continue to reject the frontrunner's campaign, and have hinted at rule changes and a contested convention that could block a Trump nomination come July.

Trump warned his party against taking any such actions in an interview with CNN Wednesday, saying, "I think you'd have riots."

"I'm representing many, many millions of people," he said, later adding that he believed "bad things would happen" if Republicans handed the nomination to another candidate at the convention.

"I wouldn't lead it," Trump added, "but I think bad things would happen."

What Is a 'Brokered Convention' Anyway and Can It Stop Trump?

Trump again extended his delegate lead on Tuesday night after primary victories in three states, including North Carolina, Illinois, and Florida, the home turf of rival Marco Rubio, who threw in the towel last night after an embarrassing defeat. He holds a small lead in Missouri, but that race is still far too close to call and could result in a recount.

Trump's wins on Tuesday night brought his delegate count to 661 — more than half of the 1,237 needed to win the nomination. Texas Senator Ted Cruz took second place in several of last night's contests, and now has a total of 402 delegates. Ohio Governor John Kasich won his home state and ended the night with 142 delegates, while Rubio dropped out with 169 delegates.

A contested or "brokered" convention is an unlikely, but possible, scenario at this point. It would happen only if Trump fails to reach the magic number of 1,237 delegates before the convention in Cleveland, Ohio in July. If Trump doesn't hit that threshold on the first ballot at the convention, contest would open up to additional rounds in which candidates scramble to steal delegate votes away from each other. At that point, the party could change its rules and allow anyone — including candidates who have already dropped out or even people who didn't run this election cycle like former Republican nominee Mitt Romney or House Speaker Paul Ryan — to enter the race.

On Wednesday, former House Speaker John Boehner stirred the pot when he said he would support his successor, Ryan, for president should a contested convention take place. Ryan did not rule out the possibility, but a spokeswoman later said while the speaker was "grateful for the support," he "is not interested."

"He will not accept a nomination and believes our nominee should be someone who ran this year," the spokeswoman said, according to the Associated Press.

John Boehner Says He'd Back Paul Ryan for President in Contested Convention

Although Trump and Cruz have been taking plenty of shots at each other in debates lately (Trump recently called Cruz a "liar," "unstable" and threatened to sue him) the Texas senator has also warned of an uproar, if party leaders went against the popular vote.

"There are many in the Washington establishment that are having fevered dreams about a brokered convention, about a deadlocked convention where they parachute in an establishment candidate," Cruz told CNN. "I think that would be an absolute disaster. I think the people would quite rightly revolt."

But in an interview with Fox News last week, Cruz said he would be fine with a contested convention if he and Trump entered the convention alone and without the required majority of delegates.

"A contested convention is a different thing where you go if nobody gets 1,237 and you've got two front-runners. Look, Reagan and Ford battled it out in a contested convention. That's what conventions are for," Cruz said.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields

Sarah Mimms contributed to this story.