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Why the GOP Nominating Convention Might Still Erupt in Fights

While Donald Trump's path to the nomination is clear, his unusual candidacy could still lead to three crucial battles in Cleveland in July.
Image: Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts to a song during a campaign rally at the Indiana Theater in Terre Haute, Indiana, on May 1.Seth Perlman / AP

With Donald Trump's path to the Republican party nomination for president wide open, a GOP contested convention is now extremely unlikely.

But the party convention in Cleveland in July isn't likely to be a "Kumbaya" moment for the party either. The nominating convention could still be ground zero for important fights.

Here are three big issues that could cause conflict, based on the unusual delegate makeup this year, the convention rules, and unique aspects of Trump's candidacy.

The Running Mate

The nominee's running mate is still technically decided by an independent delegate vote.

Delegates have no obligation to support the nominee's choice.

Image: Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts to a song during a campaign rally at the Indiana Theater in Terre Haute, Indiana, on May 1.Seth Perlman / AP

This matters because if Trump is the nominee, he will have far less delegate support than nominees in recent history, owing to the fact that the crowded field split up the delegate vote and because many Republicans attending as bound "Trump delegates" still prefer other candidates.

If Trump simply picks a "traditional" running mate who is acceptable to the base, delegates would likely defer to the choice, as they have for past nominees.

But Trump has proven anything but conventional.

Related: Trump's First Challenge Is to Unite a Fractured Party

If he taps a running mate who was controversial to the base — in favor of abortion rights or strict gun control — delegates could veto the choice on the floor.

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

If there is controversy over Trump's choice of running mate, delegate votes matter. And Ted Cruz, as the Republican with the second highest number of delegates, would end up with great influence on the outcome of the vice presidential nomination.

Party Policy Platform

The nominee usually exercises de facto control of the platform committee, which writes a platform reflecting the policies the nominee plans to stand for during the campaign.

If Trump is the nominee, however, his policy positions may present more differences with party dogma than any GOP nominee in a generation.

While delegates typically unite and defer to the nominee on many policies, Trump's unusual candidacy could lead to disputes.

On Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, for example, some of Trump's statements are at odds with traditional Republican party positions likely held by many delegates.

As with the running mate vote, delegates, on the platform committee and on the convention floor, can support or oppose the nominee's policy preferences as they choose.

Contests and Credentials

Most conventions feature some credentials fights, even when there is a widely accepted nominee.

Romney's largest political and perception issue during the 2012 convention was the treatment and credentialing of Ron Paul supporters, for example.

The Trump campaign — which had threatened to challenge delegate slates in several states over its own grievances — will have to decide how it wants to approach such disputes while trying to unite the party and, perhaps most volatile, how to treat delegates who backed Cruz in some of his stronghold states.