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Will There Be Brokered Convention?


The past few cycles, thanks mainly to an uninspiring field of candidates, we’ve heard breathless speculation regarding the potential of a brokered convention determining the Republican presidential nominee. And it never came to be.

Except this time with the strongest GOP field in decades, it’s a real possibility if you look at the party rules and the allocation of delegates.

A total of 14 states will vote their preference for president on March 1, aka “Super Tuesday.” No doubt making it one of the pivotal days on the primary calendar. But just how super those states can actually be is dictated by the proportional allocation of their 689 total delegates.

That’s just one reason why the road to 1,237 delegates – the magic number needed to secure the nomination – is perhaps more uncertain than ever. Although new rules were put in place by the RNC to help get control of the front end of the presidential nomination calendar, the backend of 2016’s race for the White House is increasingly looking like a tug of war that might not be settled in time for July’s convention.

Party rules require a presidential candidate to have won the majority of delegates in at least eight states/territories (there are 56 total contests on the primary calendar) in order to have one’s name submitted for nomination at the convention. Thus, the less convincing Super Tuesday is for a field with two consistently front-running candidates (Donald Trump and Ted Cruz), and a handful of stragglers that refuse to go away, the less likely it is that even the winner-take-all states and territories that begin kicking in on March 15 will be able to close the deal.

No state/territory is permitted to hold a strictly winner-take-all contest until March 15, but by that time almost half of the contests would’ve already occurred. Making matters more chaotic, as it seems with most things in politics, the definitions of terms are malleable. In this case the terms “winner-take-all” and “proportional.”

For example, in proportional states like Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont, Maine, Puerto Rico, Idaho and Michigan, a candidate who receives 50% or more of the vote statewide actually stands to sweep almost all of the delegates. So if Cruz clears that threshold in his home state, he could score as many as roughly 10% of the delegates it takes to win the nomination from Texas alone.

Furthermore, in most of the same March 1 through March 15 states there are minimum thresholds of between 5 and 20 percent that candidates must reach in order to be awarded any delegates at all. Thus, a front-running candidate can finish with a delegate count that is significantly higher than his overall vote total would warrant, because of the automatic reallocation of delegates at the bottom of the pack.

Therefore, it seems there is clearly a path for candidates to hurdle past the limits of proportionality in certain states and make it less likely that a brokered convention occurs. That is until you more closely examine the back-end of the calendar.

Only 10 states and territories of the 27 remaining on the calendar between March 15 and June 7 are winner-take-all in the purest sense. The bulk of the other states are winner-take-all by congressional district. That includes the two biggest remaining prizes — California and New York — which could lead to considerable balkanization in a crowded field.

And speaking of that crowded field, there will be less pressure than ever before for candidates to get out and unify behind some perceived frontrunner, as there has been in the past. Especially if that perceived frontrunner is Trump, who is not highly-regarded by any significant faction of the party. So why not stay in and see if you can deny him the nomination or win it yourself at the convention?

Like if you’re John Kasich, who is the current governor of Ohio, which is one of the biggest purely winner-take-all states on the calendar. Or Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, whose mutual home state of Florida is as well.

Finally, over 400 delegates are “unpledged” and 168 of those are members of the RNC, which only adds to the potential of chicanery like the so-called “super delegates” currently wreaking havoc in the Democrat Primary. There they’ve had two contests, one was a tie and Bernie Sanders won the other by 20 points, yet Hillary Clinton currently holds a 350-delegate lead nonetheless.

This is a lot to digest, obviously. However, considering the current delegate leader (Trump) only has 1.3 percent of the delegates needed to win the nomination, the value of a working knowledge of electoral mathematics can’t be underestimated.

First published at Conservative Review



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