This election season even more so than in years past has been focusing on numbers. Numbers of delegates pledged, awarded, needed and so forth to simply run for President. Not win mind you, just to run for the office. This has proven to be anything but an ordinary, run-of-the-mill selection for the Republicans to nominate a candidate to run for president.
The Republican Party and the Democratic Party both have different methods of awarding or pledging delegates. Typically it is the Democratic Party with their large number of Superdelegates (delegates from each State unbound by voting laws on who they may lend their support to) that has a more complex system for giving us a candidate to choose from. However this year, the Republicans are giving them a run for their money in basic understanding of who they will put forth for us to potentially choose from to sit in the Oval Office.
For the Democrats, unless something monumental and completely unforeseen happens, Hillary Clinton will be the overwhelming choice of their party and they will rally behind her. So there is no great mystery there or need to plug mathematical numbers in to see potential differing outcomes. While not official, unofficially, she has won her the support of her Party. She will be officially announced the winner when the Democrats announce their Party’s candidate to run for President on July 25th from Philadelphia. However she has already begun her national campaign because she is meeting virtually no resistance from her Party.
Now what of the Republicans? As of today the picture is murky at best. The following is strictly the Republican Party landscape for providing a candidate.
In the United States we have fifty States. Within each of these fifty States, there are Republicans and Democrats. Each State holds either a primary – which is a statewide vote of all eligible voters choosing to vote for either a Republican or a Democrat to run for political office, or a vote where only registered party members can vote for their Party’s nominee.
Or states have a caucus system, which is a town hall style meeting at a location within a state where members of the Party meet to award delegates based off their state laws.
Some states award delegates based off of a winner-take-all system, which means the candidate who receives the most votes will receive a pledge from all the delegates within that state. Some states award delegates proportionally, meaning if one candidate receives a certain percentage of the States’ votes, then that candidate will receive an equivalent proportion of delegates from that State.
With me so far?
It’s a complex process this year for the Republican’s because of the situation they are in. As of today, March 26th, 2016, thirty States have held their elections. The magic number, which is a simple majority of Republican delegates is 1,237. Theoretically, if any candidate receives 1,237 delegate pledges before the end of the voting season can declare themselves the winner and begin to campaign nationally.
As Lee Corso from ESPN might say, “Not so fast my friend!“
It is no great secret that the Republican leadership does not want Mr. Trump to represent their party for a presidential race. There are so many possible reasons that I won’t begin to list them all.
Yet, Mr. Trump is winning; and he has a substantial lead over the other two candidates left in play. One of which has been mathematically eliminated in John Kasich for the remainder of this round. However, just because he’s mathematically eliminated does not mean people will still not vote for him and it does not mean that he can’t win under some strange scenario I am about to unfold.
Before I do so, let’s look at the numbers of candidates who can potentially reach that magic number of 1,237. Mr. Trump currently has 738 delegates who have pledged their support to him. Senators Cruz had 463. The other candidates combine have 324 delegates that have pledged their support to them. Those delegates support is stuck to their candidate…for now. There are also 944 delegates yet to be awarded.
*side note – Republicans also have Superdelegates, but only a fraction compared to the number that democrats hold. Democrats have thousands of Superdelegates, while Republicans have numbers barely reaching or surpassing the hundreds depending on the election year.
To reach 1,237 delegates, Mr. Trump would need to win 52% of the remaining Republican delegates that are up for grabs from twenty states that have yet to pledge delegates. Senator Cruz would need 81% of the remaining delegates to reach the magic number.
Of the twenty states left, five states have a winner-take-all system. Delaware and New Jersey are predicted to go to Mr. Trump. Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska are all favored for Senator Cruz. Adding those up, Senator Cruz is expected to net twenty-five more delegates than Mr. Trump.
The remaining fifteen states operate on some sort of proportional assignment of delegates. Some States award delegates based off of a percentage of votes, while others may choose to award delegates based off of individual district voting. This is where the race is going to get really interesting from here on out for the Republican candidates.
There are multiple scenarios that could take place but in big states such as New York and California, Mr. Trump is expected to score big. The key to this whole race is how the proportional delegation from each state will unfold and who they will support in states such as California, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Indiana and Wisconsin. It’s hard for even the most seasons political expert to predict. Some see Mr. Trump hitting and surpassing the magic number but most have him falling less than twenty delegates short. Keep in mind this is all speculation and predictions.
Head spinning yet? Here’s the kicker.
Let’s assume Mr. Trump reaches 1,237 delegates and beyond before the Republican National Convention, which takes place on July 18th in Cleveland Ohio. Theoretically, Mr. Trump has received pledges from more than half of the Republican delegates so therefore he should be able to begin his national battle against Hillary Clinton. That is what traditionally has happened in the past; a Republican delegate has received a majority of pledges from Party members, so he (and I only say he for now since a female has yet to crash the nominating table for Republicans) can begin to campaign nationally.
That’s the theoretical part. The legal part is that the Party will not officially announce a winner until the Convention in July.
At the convention, all of the delegates will vote. In the first round of voting, all of the delegates will vote for who they pledged to vote for in their States primary or caucus. Essentially, it’s a chalk vote. Mr. Trump will get however many votes as he has earned up to that date, as will Senator Cruz, Governor Kasich and even the candidates that dropped out will still be obliged to receive their initial delegate support, so Marco Rubio, JEB Bush, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina will still receive their initial support.
If no winner is declared after the first round of voting for the Republicans, all bets are off.
All delegates are free to swap allegiances and vote for another candidate during round two. The Republicans will keep voting until they have reached a majority and “unified” under one candidate.
For those of us who support or despise Mr. Trump, know that the more rounds of votes cast at the convention, the less likely he is to be nominated. His percentage diminishes each round of voting.
Each round will see candidates campaigning all over again. Most will still feel duty-bound to continue to support the candidate they initially chose to support, yet some will waver. Enough to unseat favorites and possibly put forth an unseen or underdog candidate forward to prevent a representative that some see as unfit for the race and/or office. This has happened before, most notably in 1860, ironically the first year the Republican Party put forth a presidential nominee. I dare not compare whoever is chosen from this years’ Convention to the esteemed candidate chosen at the Convention in 1860, but let’s just say the same sort of political maneuvering that took place then will take place this year.
Some will use enticing tactics such as offering patronage positions for switching allegiances. Some will attempt to gather and rally behind a candidate that can truly unite the party, even if it means losing the ultimate prize, The White House.
When all is said and done, after all the delegates have been tallied and awarded, a victor will be declared by the Republicans. Looking at early polling numbers from USA Today’s poll tracker, whatever Republican gets the nod and eventual backing of the party appears to be a sacrificial lamb to the Democrats. Hillary Clinton is and will be an overwhelming favorite to succeed President Obama, as polling has kept her at about a 70% chance to win the General Election for quite some time now. All the political maneuvering in the world may not be enough to get a Republican in the White House. So why fight it?
However, a year ago on this date, would anyone, even Mr. Trump himself think that he would be the Republican front-runner for the Party’s nomination? Polls can swing in a day and strange things do happen. However, this is where we stand today. Tomorrow may be a different story. Welcome to the world of politics.
Author: Adam Wilkinson
Image: Gage Skidmore-flickr