Trump Nomination Still Not a Done Deal
It would be hard to imagine a better scenario for Donald Trump after Tuesday. He won every state except Ohio, which was looking more and more likely to be an easy win for Kasich as time went on. The largest American political betting market, PredictIt, gave Kasich an 83% chance of winning Ohio the day before the election. Ted Cruz won none of the states pundits had predicted he would. In fact, he won no states at all. Before most of the races had been called, Marco Rubio announced he would be suspending his campaign, removing Trump’s most effective and vocal critic. It now looks likely that there will be no more debates for the remainder of the Republican primaries, which benefits Trump significantly, as he almost always performs poorly at debates – particularly the ones with fewer debaters. Soon after, Trump was endorsed by Rick Scott, the – admittedly unpopular – governor of Florida.
In short, Trump had a great week. The “riots” in Chicago, orchestrated by BlackLivesMatter and MoveOn, that cancelled a planned Trump rally made a media story about how Trump has encouraged violence at his events into a media story about how far-left hate groups, supported by Bernie Sanders, are doing everything in their power to stop Trump. It made him look even more like the ultimate enemy of the far-left – leaving aside the fact that Sanders and Trump share many of the same economic policies, specifically regarding trade. Had Trump not been attacked by Sanders and his supporters, Trump might very well have performed much more poorly Tuesday night.
But even a win of this magnitude for Trump does not seem sufficient to prevent a contested convention. As with the previous Super Tuesday, the odds of a contested convention went up significantly. PredictIt now shows a 42% chance of a contested – or “brokered” – convention. A side-note about the terminology of “brokered” and “contested:” It’s a distinction without a difference. A contested convention happens automatically if nobody has the requisite number of delegates – 1,237 – to be the nominee. If nobody gets a majority of the delegates after the first ballot, many of the delegates who were previously bound to the candidate their state voted for would then become free agents, able to support whoever they choose. Different states have different rules regarding when their delegates become unbound; for Florida and California, for instance, all the delegates are required to vote for the candidate that won their state for 3 ballots.
What Trump’s wins Tuesday did was cement to a virtual certainty –barring any campaign-ending scandal – that Trump is the only one who can become the nominee without a brokered convention. Ted Cruz would have to win over 80% of the remaining delegates to get an outright majority. It is mathematically impossible for John Kasich to get an outright majority before the convention; he would have to win 107% of the remaining delegates. If Ted Cruz wants to be the nominee, he will have to do it through a brokered convention, something he’s repeatedly attacked as a desperate move by “Washington deal-makers.”
This is not to say that a brokered convention is certain. In general, Tuesday night was good for Trump. But even as Trump continues to rack up impressive, significant wins, what we’re seeing is an increasing probability that Trump will have to secure the nomination by fighting it out on the convention floor.