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Donald Trump Sidesteps Embarrassing Defeat at RNC

CLEVELAND — Donald Trump received a major victory Thursday as delegates overwhelmingly opposed last-ditch efforts to derail his nomination.

In the wonky Rules Committee meeting ahead of the Republican National Convention next week, a whip team assembled by the Trump campaign worked closely with officials at the Republican National Convention to defeat anti-Trump delegates’ efforts.

The RNC and Trump whip teams erupted into applause behind a section-off portion of the cavernous hall when the committee adjourned.

Trump’s top aide Paul Manafort immediately declared victory on Twitter — adding to only 15 tweets he's ever posted on his account.

A measure presented to the 112-member committee by anti-Trump delegates was soundly defeated. It would have given Republican National Convention delegates the ability to “vote their conscience,” regardless of whether they are bound to a candidate based on the results of their states’ primary.

The Trump campaign was clearly worried about the possibility of chaos.

Just one day before Trump was set to officially declare his running mate — an announcement he canceled following an attack in France — Manafort, one of his closest confidantes, was apart from Trump in Cleveland. It was all in an effort to ensure that the anti-Trump effort was not successful.

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The measure taken up by the Rules Committee was proposed by Colorado delegate Kendal Unruh, a Christian public school teacher and supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz during the Republican primary. She and supporters have been working for a month to lobby fellow members of the Rules Committee.

During a short debate of the measure, Unruh pleaded with the committee, insisting that delegates' ability to vote their conscience is a “God-given right that cannot be taken away by the RNC or any party of any state.”

Sen. Mike Lee, a delegate of Utah, and his wife both supported Unruh’s efforts. Before the vote, he was on the dais conferring with supporters.

But opponents quickly cut off debate and a voice vote showed that Trump and RNC advocates easily defeated the measure.

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Unruh and supporters have one last stand.

They are still planning to force a floor fight over multiple rule changes, all of which were soundly defeated Thursday. They say they are working to muster 28 signatures from the Rules Committee — one-fourth of the members — by the opening of the convention Monday. If they succeed, then there is one last opening. The “minority report.” as it's known, will allow them to be recognized on the floor of the convention. But the odds are great: A minority report has not been submitted since the 1976 contested convention between Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

"A floor fight is inevitable," Unruh told NBC News.

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Anti-Trump delegates received another and related blow Thursday. Nevada delegate Jordan Ross proposed an amendment that would say that delegates are bound — undermining a debate that was the basis of the anti-Trump argument but has also been a source of contention at repeated conventions.

"It's time to put an end to this," Ross said.

Ross’ amendment passed 87 to 12.