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Is This the End of the #NeverTrump Effort?

Donald Trump
Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump had reason to smile Monday evening after a federal judge issued an opinion that delegates are required to vote in accordance with RNC rules. (Reuters photo)

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it's just a draw.

Carroll "Beau" Correll, a Virginia delegate to next week's Republican National Convention in Cleveland, filed a federal lawsuit that demanded he be allowed to vote his conscience—and that other GOP delegates be allowed to do so, as well—because he feels Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump "is unfit to be president." To make that argument, he sued the state over a law that requires Virginia's delegates to be bound to the winner of its primary in a winner-take-all fashion.

In a move that will likely result in the end of the #NeverTrump effort—beyond perhaps a few outbursts—U.S. District Court Senior Judge Robert E. Payne issued a 65-page decision Monday in which Correll won, but also lost. Ultimately, the decision will have little impact on whether or not Trump wins the GOP nomination on the first ballot.

Payne decided the Virginia law that requires a winner-take-all allocation of the state's delegates was in conflict with Republican National Committee rules, and a violation of Correll's First Amendment-protected rights. And, as a result, he ruled in Correll's favor, which means Virginia's delegates must be awarded proportionately based on the outcome of the March 1 primary vote.

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Most "delegate counts" used by the media allocated the state's delegates proportionately anyway, so it doesn't exactly change the "official" count for Trump. Prior to other states' reallocation rules that are triggered at the beginning of the convention vote, he has 1,562 delegates' votes bound to him, 325 more than he needed to win the nomination.

Correll will likely be among the eight delegates awarded proportionally to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). But, even if he "voted his conscience," against Trump at the convention in violation of the Virginia statute, Payne's decision precludes the possibility of jail time or a fine.

However, because he signed a "Declaration and Statement of Qualification" when he became a delegate, he agreed to vote in accordance with RNC rules. Payne said the declaration was binding, and wrote he had no interest in interfering with the party's internal rules.

Correll's attorney, David Rivkin Jr., issued the following statement after Payne's decision was released:

"Today's decision should give comfort to all delegates that they cannot be punished for voting their conscience at the Republican National Convention."

However, it also means the "Free the Delegates" effort is effectively over. Payne determined that RNC Rule 16, which binds the delegates for the first ballot of voting at the convention, is in effect, and determined that other rules that Correll and another national delegate, Erling "Curly" Haugland—who Payne found to be "not credible"—argued could be used to unbind those delegates, are not in effect and may never come to be in effect for the 2016 convention.

The federal judge also denied a class action status for the case, making his opinion specific only to Correll's claims. He also refused to take up requests for "injunctive relief" for other delegates, saying the court didn't have the authority to do so.

Not surprisingly, the Trump campaign issued its own statement declaring victory, suggesting Correll was "soundly defeated." Former FEC Chairman Don McGahn, who is serving as an attorney for the Trump campaign, was quoted as saying:

"The court has confirmed what we have said all along: Rule 16 is in effect and thus delegates, including Correll, are bound to vote in accordance with the election results. The court did not buy what Curly Haugland was selling, and noted that his testimony has no support in the rule's text and was contradicted by his own book, Unbound. This case puts his unbound theory to rest, and is a fatal blow to the Anti-Trump agitators."

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