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There's a GOP delegate challenge brewing over a Trump nomination

Donald Trump
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Donald Trump

In the shadow of Donald Trump's latest offending comments, the call for "dumping Trump" at the GOP convention is gaining momentum within Republican delegate ranks.

"The delegates are the grass roots of the Republican Party," said A.J. Spiker, past chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, former RNC member and a former advisor to Rand Paul's presidential campaign. "They make up everything from farmers, ranchers, retired folks, every piece of the electorate. It's not top party brass. There is a large group of delegates — more than a majority — that would want someone (other than Trump) as the GOP presidential candidate."

Spiker's tweet asking for a "Patriot" to stand up at the convention in Cleveland in late July sparked a lot of conversation on Twitter. "It is ripe for this cycle to overtake Trump." Spiker told CNBC. Since Trump's comments on June 2 about federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, an American of Mexican heritage who is overseeing a lawsuit against Trump University, the number of people using the #nevertrump hashtag has increased 8 percent, according to Spredfast Intelligence.

Trump attempted twice to put out the backlash firestorm in a statement and in a speech on Tuesday, but some delegates told CNBC the damage is done.

One delegate, who is on the RNC's all-powerful credentials committee and who spoke on a condition of anonymity, told CNBC: "Until all the delegates are validated by the credentials committee, he is not the official nominee. We have to make sure the all delegates are valid. Then you have Mr. Trump saying his campaign was going to challenge some of the delegates. This is far from over. He is not the official GOP nominee."

Delegate challenges are nothing new at GOP conventions. In 2012, Ron Paul lost his delegates from Maine as a result of delegate challenges from the credentials committee. Republican insiders say losing those delegates hurt Paul's nomination chances.

The Trump campaign did not return a CNBC request for comment about the delegates' concerns.

Bette Grande, an unbound delegate and former chairman of the Ted Cruz campaign in North Dakota, stressed that emotions need to be kept in check. "Cooler heads prevail. We do not allow the media to pick the candidates," she said. "It's up to the delegates. The process is not over. It finishes at the convention. We are all unbound."

"We vote our conscience and until then we have to wait to see what the credentials, platform and rules committee lays out the rules, we have to wait," Grande added. North Dakota unbound delegate "Curly [Haugland] has a legitimate point that we are all unbound. Let's have this play out. I have not made my commitment one way or the other and it will stay that way until the convention."

Haugland, a rules committee member, says interest in his newly released free book "Unbound" has spiked since the latest flareup. "It's getting around quite a bit and delegates are inquiring routinely. There is confusion out there that the existing rules need to be changed to nominate another candidate other than Trump. The rules are fine as they are, delegates are free and unbound to vote for whomever they want on the first ballot. But there is a problem — there are presently no alternatives."


Trump supporters scoffed at the idea that there is a need for an alternative.

"People need to stop reacting emotionally to everything that Trump says," said Diana Orrock, Republican National Committeewoman for Nevada. "They should instead look at the facts and do some simple research before they rush to judgment. ... Our nation is in serious trouble, and we need a candidate like Trump to restore our sovereignty, strength and prosperity."

Spiker agrees that the nation is at a crossroads, but says anti-Trump forces won't be silenced. "He is unfit for the Oval Office, and you are continuing to see that over and over again." Spiker said. "There has to be a bottom to this pit. But there is only so much dog s--- to choke down."

Trump may have other problems as well. Supporters and the Republican National Committee are rallying in New York to raise money for the GOP presumptive nominee. CNBC has learned an intimate fundraising event of about two dozen multimillionaire and billionaire businessmen met with Trump Campaign National Finance Chief Steven Mnuchin in Manhattan on Wednesday night.

On Thursday, the RNC is holding its own fundraiser in New York with former RNC national finance chairman Ron Weiser and others. "We'll know in about a month how the fundraising is going and if his comments have hurt him dollar wise." said a person close to the Trump fundraising situation.

Correction: This story was revised to correct that Spiker is not a Republican convention delegate.