So far 20 states have voted. Let’s take a look at the how the Republican presidential race is going so far. (The first number is total number of delegates. The second number is the percentage of delegates won so far.)
Trump 391 — 43.16%
Cruz 303 — 33.44%
Rubio 152 — 16.78%
Kasich 37 — 4.08%
unbound 8 — 0.88%
other 15 — 1.6%
The magic number is 1237. If a candidate secures 1,237 delegates during the state primaries and caucuses, then he will be nominated on the first ballot. End of story.
But what happens if every state votes and no candidate secures 1237 delegates? Is it still possible to have a candidate win on the first ballot? *
Here’s how. Let’s say the remaining delegates are roughly assigned to the candidates as they are now. First caveat: It’s unlikely that the race will continue at the same percentages. Some candidates could drop out. There are winner take all states. So much can happen. Nevertheless, let’s continue on this path to illustrate how a candidate can win on the first ballot without locking 1237 delegates on June 7, the last day of the primaries.
If on June 7, Trump has won 43% of delegates, he’ll have 1063 delegates. That means he’ll be 174 short of the nomination.
But let’s say Ted Cruz wins 827 delegates — that would be consistent with his 33% haul so far. And let’s say Marco Rubio wins 415 delegates (that’s possible — especially if he nets 99 from Florida.) If Kasich loses Ohio, and ends the race with just 4%, he’d still have 99 delegates.
So what might happen? On June 8, Ted Cruz could ask Marco Rubio to be his Vice Presidential candidate. Rubio would then release his delegates and encourage them to vote for Cruz-Rubio. Yes, they would free to vote for whomever they wanted, but since these delegates were selected by the Rubio campaign they would gladly vote for Ted Cruz on the first ballot. After all, their candidate would be the VP candidate. That would put Cruz-Rubio at 1242 delegates. That’s a slim majority, and you could only stand to lose five delegates. But they would be elected on the first ballot.
You could switch the delegate numbers around, too, depending on who wins what states and where the delegate totals end up. So let’s say Rubio loses Florida, and Kasich wins Ohio and starts to take off — you could end up with a Kasich-Cruz ticket or a Cruz-Kasich ticket. What if Kasich crashes in Ohio and Rubio wins in Florida? It could be a Rubio-Cruz ticket.
So don’t let people convince you that falling short of 1237 automatically means convention chaos. Let’s all vote strategically to Stop Trump from getting to a majority. That means I’m voting for Cruz in Michigan tomorrow. If you live in Ohio, vote for Kasich. And if you live in Florida, vote for Rubio.
And if four candidates are bunched together very closely… then we might be in for a wild ride in Cleveland. But I’d much prefer a messy Convention to a Trumpster fire in the general election campaign.
* After talking with Patrick Archbold about the obligations of first-round voting, I took another look over the delegate rules. About 95% of the delegates are bound, which means they are required to cast a ballot for the candidate which they are bound — but most states allow for delegates to be reassigned if the candidate they support is no longer running an active campaign. Go here and read Paragraph #7 for more information. So, yes, Ted Cruz could secure the nomination on the first ballot if he is able to win over delegates from campaigns which have suspended.