In some disturbing news to Donald Trump, the Republican National Committee chairman has made it clear that he would not back the controversial front- runner's argument that the candidates with the most delegates should automatically win the party's presidential nomination.
Reince Priebus said that if no candidate wins the 1,237 delegates necessary to clinch the party's nomination before the convention in Cleveland in June, it was up to Republican delegates to decide how to go forward.
"This is a delegate-driven process. This is the first time in a long time people actually cared about delegate count, but delegates matter," Priebus said ahead of key primaries in Arizona and Utah tomorrow.
"The minority of delegates doesn't rule for the majority," Priebus told CNN.
"No one's disenfranchised. In fact, they're empowered by the delegates they receive," he said.
Under rules, in the event of a brokered convention, the Republican Party could feasibly end up choosing a nominee who was not a formal candidate.
With 678 delegates won so far, 69-year-old Trump remains the far-and-away front-runner in his party's delegate count.
To get the magic figure of 1,237 delegates, the outspoken real estate mogul would have to win more than 60 per cent of the remaining delegates, a difficult feat he could accomplish only by winning the remaining 19 Republican contests with about approximately 40 per cent support, New York Daily News reported.
45-year-old Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who has emerged as the most likely candidate to overtake Trump, has so far won just 423 delegates, making it even more difficult for him to ultimately win the necessary majority, it said.
If Trump enters the convention with less than 1,237, the event would be considered contested, and could even become brokered, the paper said.
If the first vote by delegates at the convention fails to provide any candidate with the 1,237 majority, almost all of the delegates become unbound, allowing them to pledge their support to any of the remaining candidates, or even politicians who had not been campaigning, it said.
Priebus's statement comes at a time when there appears to be a growing movement among the Republican Party establishment - including a few of his former rivals - to at least slow down his march to the convention with enough delegates in hand to claim the nomination.
Priebus also complained that "there's a lot of
misinformation" about Republican rules -- including one from 2012 that required candidates to have a majority of delegates from at least eight states in order to be nominated on the floor.
He said those 2012 rules don't necessarily carry over to 2016 -- when the delegates will elect a new rules committee to write its convention rules.
Trump predicted yesterday that he will top 1,237 delegates before the convention in Cleveland.
"I think we will get over that number. There's tremendous spirit about make America great again," he said.
But he said a wide Republican field has made it tough to reach that mark, and "if I'm a few short and I have, you know, 1,200 or if I have 1,100 and somebody else is at 300 or 400 or 500, which is very likely going to be the case," he should be the nominee.
Trump said he would tell his supporters not to riot if he did not win the nomination, but that his backers are "fervent."
"All I can say is this, I don't know what's going to happen," Trump said. "But I will say this, you're going to have a lot of very unhappy people. And I think, frankly, for the Republicans to disenfranchise all those people because if that happens, they're not voting and the Republicans lose."
The 2016 Republican National Convention, in which delegates of the Republican Party will choose the party's nominees for US President and Vice President in the 2016 national election, will be held July 18-21.