2016 is turning out to be the strangest election season that we have seen in decades, and it may soon get far stranger. At this point, most people assume that Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee, and without a doubt he has had a tremendous amount of success. But because most of the states so far have apportioned delegates proportionally, Trump only has 44.8 percent of the delegates that have been awarded up to this point. So Trump is going to have to do significantly better through the rest of the process in order to get to the magic number of 1,237 delegates, especially since not all of the delegates are awarded through the primaries and caucuses. As Real Clear Politics has detailed, every state “is awarded so-called ‘RNC delegates,’ who are party officials with automatic credentials to the convention“.
Right now, more than 40 percent of all the delegates to the convention have already been awarded, and Trump is sitting at just 458. To get to 1,237, he is going to have to do really well in the upcoming winner-take-all states. That is why there is so much focus on Florida and Ohio on March 15th. If Trump wins both of them, he will have a path to 1,237 delegates. If he doesn’t, that is where things get tricky.
If Donald Trump shows up at the convention with fewer than 1,237 delegates, he will be vulnerable, and it is likely that the Republican establishment will try to steal the nomination away from him.
In order for that to happen, the rules of the convention will need to be changed. Because right now the only candidates that are likely to be nominated under the current rules are Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
Morton Blackwell, a member of the Republican National Committee’s Standing Committee on Rules, authored a great article entitled “The Coming Trainwreck” in which he described what a mess the Republican convention rules are as of this moment. The following is a brief excerpt in which he describes what would happen if no candidate received 1,237 votes on the first ballot…
First, a sizeable number of delegate votes cast will not be counted in the final tally of the first ballot because they will be cast for candidates who did not demonstrate, before the first ballot, that they had majorities in at least eight state delegations.
Second, the national rules provide that no one will get the presidential nomination on any ballot until someone receives at least 1,237 tallied delegate votes.
Third (and this will come as a surprise to most people), although delegate votes from states that hold primaries will be allocated by those state primaries to specific candidates on the first ballot, that does not mean that on subsequent ballots all delegates are free to vote for whomever they choose and to have those votes counted in a final tally on any ballot.
In fact, the state of Florida binds their delegates for the first three ballots. Rules vary from state to state, and I am sure that we are going to hear a lot more about this if nobody has 1,237 delegates before the convention.