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Anti-Trump Forces Unleash Plan to Pick Vice President at Convention

The anti-Trump forces have unleashed a back-up plan in case their efforts to deny Donald Trump the Republican nomination fail: Give delegates in Cleveland the power to chose his vice president.

It's a last-ditch effort, with the thought being if they can't get rid of Trump, then they can force at least one major concession.

The proposal is being distributed by the executive director of the group "Free the Delegates," Regina Thomson, and it would change "rule 40," a party bylaw that guides how delegates choose the nomination of both the president and vice president.

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The anti-Trump rebels' proposals to alter rule 40 would give delegates the power to have a say in Trump's running mate.

"It would make it so that it would be more clear and easier for the convention body to assert itself in making the nomination," said a delegate on the rules committee sympathetic to the anti-Trump effort.

The nominee's running mate is still technically decided by an independent delegate vote and delegates have no obligation to support the nominee's choice.

That scenario has recent precedent. When Sen. John McCain seriously considered then Sen. Joe Lieberman as a running mate in 2008, many delegates viewed Lieberman's abortion record as so unacceptable, they threatened to vote him down in a floor fight if nominated.

The proposals to alter rule 40, expected to be debated in rules committee meetings in Cleveland this week ahead of the Republican National Convention, is considered a safety valve in the instance that Trump were to nominate a Democrat or a moderate considered unacceptable to the Republican activists.

Perhaps foreshadowing that fight, just on Sunday it was reported that potential Trump veep choice retired Army Lt. Gen Michael T. Flynn had some relatively liberal views on abortion and gay marriage.

Image: Retired Lt. Gen Michael T. Flynn
Retired Lt. Gen Michael T. Flynn. Defense Intelligence Agency Public Affairs

By its nature of governing the nomination, rule 40 is often a source of contention. During the 2012 convention, it made it more difficult for a candidate to win the nomination because it requires that the nominee win a majority of delegates in eight states. It raised the victory threshold for the nominee to prevent Ron Paul from being eligible for the nomination, which is something that his supporters angled for four years ago.

Related: Three Ways Republicans Could Dump Trump in Cleveland

One of the proposals to alter it this week would insist that the vice presidential candidate has the support of the delegates from at least three states.

Another proposed change would attempt diminish the vice presidential preference of the presidential nominee.

"The preference of any candidate seeking nomination for president of the United States shall have no bearing upon the submission of names for nomination for vice president of the United States nor the recording of votes for the same," the proposal reads.

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A final proposal would require that the vice presidential candidate receive the support of two-thirds delegates on the first round of voting. If he or she doesn't, subsequent rounds are required.

Opponents to Trump are planning a multi-pronged effort in Cleveland.

In addition to these proposals, they are also working to convince delegates to support a rule that would "codify" what they say is delegates' responsibility to vote their conscience instead of how their state voted in the primary.

They have a whip operation to persuade delegates and plan to run television ads in Cleveland during the convention.

A supporter of the effort, lobbyist Jack Burkman, held a fundraiser in Northern Virginia Friday night. He said 500 people attended and he raised at least $500,000. Burkman is working to raise $1 million by Wednesday, the day before the rules committee convenes. That's in addition to the $3 million anti-Trump groups said they had leading up to Cleveland.

Fundraising "is going way better than I even expected," Burkman said.