In 2012, the Republican National Committee added paragraph 40(b) to The Rules of the Republican Party. The rule requires that a candidate have the “majority of delegates” from at least eight states in order to be on the ballot for the Republican nomination.
(b) Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight (8) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination.
Rule 40(e) then explains that if no candidate has received the majority of votes, “the chairman of the convention shall direct the roll of the states be called again and shall repeat the calling of the roll until a candidate shall have received a majority of the votes.”
Rule 40 is also known as the ‘Ron Paul Rule,’ nicknamed for its purpose of establishment in 2012, which was to block Paul from the convention. Boxing out Paul was done in order to hand the convention to Romney in a unanimous and appearingly united fashion. Ironically, the rule that was set up by Romney people to block Paul in 2012 will be blocking the establishment from being able to stop Trump in 2016.
The establishment must find a way around this rule if it wants any hope at keeping Trump from representing the Republican party in the general election. The Rules Committee could change Rule 40, but would risk provoking a voter revolt.
Delegates are bound by results of their states primary or caucus on the first ballot, but can switch their vote on any ballot after that. This means that if Trump wins 190 of the remaining 520 delegates, he will reach the magic number of 1,237 and solidify the nomination by the first ballot.
Theoretically, the only way in which Trump could lose would be if enough delegates abstained from voting on the first ballot to deny him the 1,237, and then vote against him on the next ballot(s). However, since rule 40(b) prohibits candidates with the majority in 8 states from qualifying for the ballot, Trump will have no competition on the first ballot.
However, The Rules of the Republican Party are not set in stone. In the week leading up to the convention in Cleveland, delegates will have the chance to change the rules. Committee could get rid of rule 40(b), and some argue that delegates should be free to vote for whoever they want on the first ballot.
The GOP has two options: Accept Trump, or rewrite the rules to stop him.