PHOTO CREDIT: Greg Nash, Getty Images

Donald Trump’s position at the top of the GOP ticket could spark a major fight over the direction of the party’s platform.

Trump has staked out issues that contradict with the party’s general philosophy—on abortion, trade, taxes and campaign finance to name a few—a reality that could prompt a battle at the convention if Team Trump and convention delegates come to a head.

“The platform committee will be where the action is at,” said former Republican National Committee aide Doug Heye.

“The platform committee will be where the action is at,” said former Republican National Committee aide Doug Heye.
“The membership of the platform committee tends to be pretty conservative,” he added, noting that the potential conflict over the party platform would be the manifestation of the “existential crisis and operational chaos that Republicans face” now that Trump is the de-facto nominee.

Part of the heat could stem from a critical mass of delegates loyal to Trumps main primary rival Ted Cruz, who had strong success winning delegate loyalties while hoping for a contested convention.

While those delegates won’t have a chance to sweep in and hand Cruz the nomination since Cruz dropped out after losing Tuesday’s Indiana primary, the staunch conservatives that his team helped put on the floor will still be carrying his torch.

“We still want Cruz delegates to go to the convention, we want conservative delegates to go to the convention in part because of the platform and in part to get grassroots rules that favor the grassroots,” said Ken Cuccinelli, a key member of Cruz’s delegate team who will be on the convention floor as a delegate from Virginia.

He added that the Cruz campaign’s “extraordinary head start getting really rock-ribbed, conservative delegates,” will help “preserve and protect a conservative platform.”

The Trump campaign did not return requests to comment on its platform priorities. But Trump has not been shy about his vision for the platform, specifically on the hot-button issue of abortion.

When asked during an NBC town hall last month if he’d change the Republican Party’s platform to specifically include exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, Trump said “absolutely.”

That instantly drew criticism from the March for Life that the move would set the party back “years,” as well as from Ted Cruz, who pointed to the comment as “part of his pulling the mask off and revealing that he is really a New York liberal.”

The 2012 platform called to protect the “sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” as well as for a “human life amendment.”

Republicans believe that any changes to soften that language would be a tough sell. That’s especially true, they say, in part because Family Research Council president Tony Perkins sits on the platform committee.

“It borders on impossible, no way that is going to change,” Cuccinelli said.

“Inconceivable.”

Typically, a party’s nominee can push the platform to reflect his positions in many respects.

The committee includes one man and one woman from each state delegation. The full roster won’t be finalized until all primaries and state party conventions are held. But there will likely be a mix of Trump allies and those who are less than enthused about his candidacy.

Trump’s differences with the 2012 platform go further than just abortion. Trump’s call for high tariffs flies in the face of the platform’s push for free trade, his disparagement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership counters the platform’s endorsement, he’s waffled on tax cuts for the rich and he’s criticized Citizens United.

But he’s far from the first nominee to come in with significant disagreements, including on abortion—Mitt Romney and John McCain both supported exceptions that Trump wants included in the platform.

Jim Bopp, a longtime platform committee member who helped author its abortion plank, told The Hill that crafting the platform is a “process of reconciling those issues.” He added that the platform committee has addressed conflicts in many ways, including generalities or avoiding an issue all together.

In his analysis, the party has successfully walked the line in the past on abortion.

“A human life amendment is a generic term, there are numerous versions some that address exemptions and others that don’t,” Bopp said.

“We purposefully drafted that to be generic and to avoid what would be the job of the legislature.”

When McCain came into the convention in 2008, he did so with some significant baggage as far as the party was concerned—his work on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform.

But Bopp, who ended up representing Citizens United in the landmark Supreme Court case, noted to The Hill that the platform committee simply chose to leave out the issue entirely.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus pushed back against the idea that Trump would be able to call the shots on the platform during a breakfast event Friday.

“The party is, was and will remain the Republican Party of the open door, freedom, opportunity, and equality,” he said.

“Our platform will remain much the same as it is right now.”

And while Cuccinelli is hopeful that the convention will deliver a strong, conservative platform, Trump has never based his candidacy on the popular party positions or its sacred cows, a fact that could defuse a potential showdown.

“There may be less conflict because I don’t think Donald Trump gives a rip what the platform says,” he said.

“if you ask me to bet on the whole series of possible outcomes, he’ll blow it off, he will literally not care. He’s never cared before, why would he care now?”