A Republican Brokered Convention?

Amid suggestions of a possible brokered convention, according to the latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey Tracking poll, Donald Trump currently holds 48% of the registered Republican and Republican-tending crowd. The number is just shy of a total majority, 21 points higher than the following of Ted Cruz (27%). He is also 30 points higher than the group following the surprisingly resilient John Kasich (18%). To onlookers, the race looks practically over, no matter how the next states swing.

However, the Grand Old Party is now keeping their eyes fixed on a number that could mean all the difference. This i the number of the delegates each Republican candidate has, according to the primaries and caucuses won. A Republican candidate needs 1,237 delegates to have voted for him, not just a majority. These 1,237 delegates are the key to the Republican nomination.

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If the frontrunner candidate of either party (currently Trump for the Republicans, and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats) does not reach the number of delegates needed, either party can hold a brokered convention. In case no candidate wins the required number of delegates, a brokered convention may be called. A brokered convention is the safety net for choosing a candidate. In this case, for the Establishment GOP, it might be a lifeline.

When is a Brokered Convention Needed?

Every election year, after all the primaries and caucuses are completed, there is a Republican National Convention and a Democratic National Convention. Since 1952, the year of the last brokered convention, the national party conventions simply make official declarations of who the party candidates are. Since the frontrunners usually gather the required number of delegates before the party convention, there are no issues.

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In a brokered convention, the delegates from the different states, from each primary or caucus, go to the national party convention ready to vote. In the first round of voting, each delegate is required to vote for his or her assigned candidate.

With the redistribution of some votes, especially if there were dropouts from the race, a presidential candidate may already hope to win his or her party nomination if he or she gets the required delegate count. If there is no clear winner, however, the restrictions on the delegates are lifted: they can vote for any candidate on the ballot. As a solution, it might become quite tiresome: one brokered convention took 102 rounds to select a candidate.

Republican Brokered Convention This Elections 2016?

From the 30 Republican primaries already completed, 1,531 Republican delegates have already cast their votes. Of these delegates, 167 were temporarily lost when Marco Rubio dropped out of the race. Rubio won in Minnesota, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. Ted Cruz was the runner-up in Minnesota, which would give him a possible 38 delegates; and John Kasich was the runner-up in the District of Columbia, giving him a possible 19 delegates.

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Rubio’s disappearance from the race left 1,364 delegates across the Republican spectrum. Of these, 755 are with Donald Trump, giving him 61% of the delegates needed for nomination. Ted Cruz comes second, with 465 delegates, 37% of the required nomination majority. John Kasich comes last with 144 delegates, even less than Rubio had. He only has 11% of the required nomination majority so far.

There are 941 delegates scattered across 20 states who have yet to cast their votes, and Trump needs at least 482, a little more than half, to gain the Republican nomination. The hope of Cruz and Kasich is to win enough delegates to keep Trump from completing those 482, and driving the party into a brokered convention in July.

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North Dakota holds its caucus on April 1, with 28 delegates on the line. In an informal poll in February, North Dakota was clear Trump territory. Now that both Ben Carson and Marco Rubio are out of the race, it makes it more likely. New York (95 delegates) also favors Trump, giving him 64% support compared to Ted Cruz’s 12%.

According to both formal and informal polls, Connecticut (28 delegates) also tends Trump, as does Maryland (38 delegates), Pennsylvania (71 delegates), Rhode Island (19 delegates), Indiana (57 delegates), Nebraska (36 delegates), West Virginia (34 delegates), California (172 delegates), Montana (27 delegates), New Jersey (51 delegates), and South Dakota (29 delegates).

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Ted Cruz is winning in Wyoming (29 delegates) as the race continues, leaving Trump far behind. According to campaign donations, Cruz is also leading in Delaware (16 delegates). Wisconsin votes on April 5 with 42 delegates, but the polls show close competition with Trump at 29% support, Kasich close behind with 27% support, and Ted Cruz with 25% support.

In a fascinating twist, Colorado (37 delegates) is in the same boat. With Carson and Rubio, its two favorites, out of the race, Trump and Cruz are head-to-head in a state which gave them 17% and 14% support respectively, in November. Oregon (28 delegates) is equally ambiguous, as is New Mexico (24 delegates).

It Could Still be a Brokered Convention

Considering even all the informal polls, Trump’s potential delegate count is 657, more than enough to win the nomination. However, as the general election draws nearer, there are some signs that the delegate count might still throw a brokered convention into the laps of the Establishment GOP.

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According to a poll in California, Trump is clearly leading Cruz with 37% to Cruz’s 30% among the total number of California voters. However, among the voters who are most likely to turn out for the California primary, Trump has 36% support to Cruz’s 35%, making the race potentially very close. With California’s frankly terrifying possible delegate count of 172, the primary will be something to watch.

The biggest factor that may turn the race in favor of either Cruz or Kasich, the only other two GOP presidential candidates, is the reality of the general elections. At the end of the Convention, only one candidate should be left standing. That candidate should ideally be the best possible contender against the Democrat nominee, whoever it ends up being.

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In his home state of New York, Donald Trump holds an unbeatable support margin of 52 points over Cruz, at 64%. However, when that same poll matched him head-to-head with the Democrat candidates, Trump would lose the general elections by a clear margin. Clinton had the widest lead over him, of 19 points; Sanders had a 17-point lead over the real estate mogul.

The latest head-to-head matchups have Clinton and Sanders easily beating Trump out in the general elections, while the race became much closer when it was either Cruz or Rubio, who were the two frontrunners at the time. Republican voters may very well consider that at a certain point, they not only have to pick the winner of the GOP nomination, but the potential winner of the general election. This is the strongest reason there might be a Republican brokered convention these 2016 elections.

About the author

Esther has a B.A. in Humanities and an M.A. in Political Economy. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing Sequence with her family, training in Aikido, and curling up with coffee and a good book.

  • Things could get ugly at the Republican nominating convention. What a potential slugfest. Who knew just a year ago that the best the Party of Lincoln could offer would be someone as callous as Donald Trump. Ted Cruz is no better. Too bad someone like House Speaker Paul Ryan couldn’t be brought in as an alternative to save the Republicans from themselves.