US Elections 2016

Trump unlikely to be shoo-in nominee despite primary wins

Mr Donald Trump addressing a news conference in Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday. Both Mr Trump and Senator Ted Cruz are quietly focusing on a parallel campaign to select the individual delegates who will go to Cleveland in July for what could be the f
Mr Donald Trump addressing a news conference in Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday. Both Mr Trump and Senator Ted Cruz are quietly focusing on a parallel campaign to select the individual delegates who will go to Cleveland in July for what could be the first contested convention in American politics in more than 60 years.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Likelihood of the Republican Party having a contested convention has increased with Kasich's Ohio victory

COLUMBUS (Ohio) • With more than half the states having now held their nominating contests, Mr Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz are quietly directing their attention to a second, shadow election campaign - one that is out of sight, little understood, but absolutely critical if Republicans arrive at their national convention with Mr Trump short of a majority of delegates.

This parallel campaign is to select the individual delegates who will go to Cleveland in July for what could be the first contested convention in American politics in more than 60 years.

The mere prospect that delegates could deny Mr Trump the nomination led him to predict on Wednesday that violence could erupt in such a situation.

 

"I think you'd have riots," Mr Trump warned.

The chances that the Republican Party will decide its nominee for the November presidential election through a brokered convention have increased even though Mr Trump, the front runner, has racked up primary wins, according to two online betting sites.

  • Road to a contested convention

  • Here's a closer look at how and why the Republican Party might end up with a contested convention to pick its presidential candidate.

    WHAT DOES A WINNING CANDIDATE NEED?

    Front runner Donald Trump needs to garner a majority of the party's 2,472 delegates in state nominating contests to become the party's candidate for November's presidential election. But if he falls short of the 1,237 threshold, the delegates - who will gather for the convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in July - will have to select their nominee by following a complex process of sequential votes. Mr Trump currently has 673 delegates, compared with 411 for Texas Senator Ted Cruz and 143 for Ohio Governor John Kasich, the other two candidates still in the race.

    WHO ARE THE DELEGATES?

    They are chosen through a byzantine process, awarded by each state usually based on primary or caucus votes or a percentage of such votes. Different states have different formulas for awarding delegates, including a winner-take-all approach. In some states, their names actually appear on the ballot with the presidential candidates. In the Democratic Party, the presidential candidates get to pick their delegates - which means they will remain loyal to the candidate. That's not the case with the Republicans.

    WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF A CONTESTED CONVENTION?

    At this point, Mr Trump would need to win about 55 per cent of the delegates still up for grabs to avoid a contested convention. That is a tall order for a candidate who has so far been scoring in the mid-to-high 40 per cent range in state contests - though his chances could improve as several upcoming state primaries are winner-take-all.

    HOW DOES A CONTESTED CONVENTION WORK?

    If Mr Trump walks into the convention with the most delegates, but falls short of the 1,237 threshold, delegates will start a sequence of floor votes. In the first vote, at least 5 per cent of the total 2,472 delegates are unbound - meaning they can vote as they please. The other delegates must vote according to the result of the voting district they represent. If no candidate reaches the required threshold in the first vote, a second one is held, this time with a larger proportion of delegates becoming unbound. This process continues, with more delegates becoming unbound at each new vote, until a candidate gets a majority.

    WHAT HAPPENS TO THE DELEGATES OF CANDIDATES WHO HAVE SUSPENDED THEIR CAMPAIGNS?

    The battle for those delegates already chosen has begun. Most of Senator Marco Rubio's estimated 172 delegates are now in play. Mr Rubio, who dropped out of the race on Tuesday night after losing his home state of Florida to Mr Trump, cannot control those delegates; he can only recommend. Exit polls have indicated that most of his support could be distributed to Mr Trump's competitors.

    WHAT HAPPENS IN THE LEAD-UP TO THE CONVENTION?

    Watch the convention's rules committee. It usually meets a few days before the convention opens and can decide, among other things, what it takes to get one's name placed in nomination and so be eligible for votes in the full convention. Before the last convention in 2012, the party decided that a candidate would need a majority of delegates in at least eight states to be formally considered. That could change, however, in July, and all bets are off if different rules are adopted. Rules committee members are delegates chosen by each state. It is hard to know who will be on the committee.

    WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME A BROKERED CONVENTION TOOK PLACE?

    The last time a major-party candidate entered a convention without a majority was in 1976, when Republican president Gerald Ford had to convince blocs of uncommitted delegates to back him over challenger Ronald Reagan. The last time a convention went beyond one ballot was in 1952, when the Democrats chose Mr Adlai Stevenson on the third ballot. The last time a candidate nominated in a contested convention went on to win the White House was in 1932. That candidate was Mr Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat.

    SOURCES: REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES, TIME, NEWSWEEK

PredictIt put the probability of a brokered convention at 43 per cent as of midday on Wednesday, following primaries in five states, including Florida and Illinois, the previous night. That was up from 35 per cent on March 2, Super Tuesday, when Mr Trump won contests in seven out of 11 states, according to the website, which is run by Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

Ladbrokes PLC, another online betting site, put the chances of a brokered convention at 4-5 on Wednesday, down from evens on March 2. That means there is a 56 per cent probability of a brokered convention.

Governor John Kasich's victory in his home state of Ohio on Tuesday increased the likelihood - if not the certainty - of a contested convention, highlighting the importance of how delegates are chosen.

The chances that the Republican Party will decide its nominee for the November presidential election through a brokered convention have increased even though Mr Trump, the front runner, has racked up primary wins, according to two online betting sites.

Recruiting loyalists to run for delegate slots - often through a series of contests beginning at the precinct and county levels - favours campaigns with strong grassroots networks and robust national organisations.

Mr Trump has been lacking in both areas, failing to win in caucus states like Iowa, Kansas and Maine where a ground game is important.

"In the vast majority of the states, you can't do this on the fly; you have to have laid the groundwork for months," said Dr Joshua Putnam, a political science lecturer at the University of Georgia.

"By all accounts, the Trump campaign is not active in pushing their guys into those delegate slots."

By contrast, Mr Cruz, who has done well in caucus states, is seeking to get his supporters elected as delegates who are nominally pledged to Mr Trump, but who could desert him at the convention.

"The Cruz campaign has been organised down to the district and county levels all the way across the country," said Mr Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party who has participated in meetings for the Cruz campaign about delegate selection.

"You're dealing with people who are party activists. They will trump the Trump loyalists in winning delegate slots."

The Trump campaign seems to have recently awakened to this possibility.

Last Friday, it announced a new "delegate selection team" of four people, led by Mr Ed Brookover, a former campaign manager for Mr Ben Carson. Mr Brookover said the campaign is working to get Trump supporters selected as delegates, including in Georgia, building on state operations in place during primaries and caucuses.

NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS

US election 2016: More stories online at: http://str.sg/Zjyq  

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2016, with the headline 'Trump unlikely to be shoo-in nominee despite primary wins'. Print Edition | Subscribe