Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick warned Friday that if the Republican National Convention this summer doesn’t nominate either U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz or Donald Trump for president, it will be the end of the Republican Party.

“If it’s anyone else other than Ted Cruz or Donald Trump — and I prefer Ted, and I’ll fight for Ted — but if it’s anyone else other than them … I think you’ll be seeing the end of the party,” Patrick, who chairs the Cruz campaign in Texas, told Neil Cavuto on the Fox Business Network on Friday.

“I’m going to draw the line in the sand,” Patrick said. “If the party operatives ignore the will of the people there will be a huge fight, and I will be leading it along with a lot of other Texans and a lot of other Cruz supporters on the floor. The will of the people must be heard.”

Patrick’s remarks, and a press release that followed, seemed intended to marginalize the candidacy of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has ignored calls from the Cruz campaign to quit the race so that Cruz can go one-on-one with Trump in the remaining caucuses and primaries. Patrick’s comments were also meant to squelch speculation and scheming by anti-Trump party leaders and activists looking to thwart Trump if he arrives at the convention in Cleveland as the front-runner but short of the requisite 1,237 votes need to clinch the nomination. Possible tactics including trying to select another candidate.

“If the party attempts to parachute anyone into the convention to be the choice of the delegates if there is to be a contested convention, I believe there will be a massive turning of their backs on the party by both Cruz and Trump supporters,” Patrick said. “The delegates going to the convention are not interested in (U.S. House Speaker) Paul Ryan or (2012 GOP nominee) Mitt Romney.”

“As the lieutenant governor of the state of Texas and a delegate to the convention, I’m asking all of the elected officials in Congress, in the Senate, to stop the talk of another person,” Patrick said. “It’s Ted or it’s Donald. Period.”

Trump needs to collect more than half the delegates still to be chosen to reach the 1,237 delegate threshold, which is possible if he improves his winning percentages.

Cruz would have to win about 80 percent of the delegates from here on out, which, barring an utter collapse of the Trump campaign, seems virtually impossible. The odds are even longer for Kasich, who is seeking to gain momentum from his victory over Trump in the Ohio primary Tuesday. Cruz was winless in Tuesday’s six primaries.

Kasich’s strategy — and for all practical purposes, Cruz’s as well — is based on the premise that the nominee will be chosen on a second or subsequent ballot, when most delegates will be unbound and able to vote for other candidates who earn enough support to have their names put in nomination, whether or not they competed in the primaries or caucuses.

In Texas, Republicans at Senate District Conventions on Saturday will elect delegates to the state convention in Dallas in May, which will elect the delegates to the national convention. While Cruz won 104 delegates in the March 1 primary, to 48 for Trump and three for Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race this week, former Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri said he would be “shocked” if all 155 Texas delegates to the national convention weren’t Cruz loyalists, including the 48 delegates who would be bound to vote for Trump on the first ballot, but free to vote for Cruz thereafter.

Munisteri said that exhortations by Patrick and others won’t affect voters in upcoming primary and caucus states, and that, “at the end of the day, the 2,437 delegates will decide, and that’s that.”

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said that for Cruz to win it at the convention, he needs to arrive with a delegate total within striking distance of Trump’s.

Lubbock County GOP Chairman Carl Tepper, a Trump supporter, said he feared that if Trump is even one delegate shy on the first ballot, he will be denied by the party loyalists and activists at the convention, and that Patrick’s concern about the peril for the party would prove well-founded.

If that happens, Tepper said, “I predict the dissolution of the Republican Party. I think people would be suing each other for the party name, and suing each other for the office furniture.”

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(c)2016 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

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