I'm a spreadsheet guy, and I just went through a little exercise. I wanted to see how close Trump may come to nailing down the nomination on the first ballot. I went through the remaining states and tried my best, using a combination of polls and educated guesses, to allocate the remaining delegates. This also involved sifting through the primary rules for each state, which are complicated to say the least.
Here's where I came out: Trump wins 1227 delegates, 10 short of the number he needs.
Mind you, the Trump campaign has blundered lately, and I didn't fade his numbers accordingly, so I'm guessing my projection is slightly optimistic for Trump.
So here comes a contested convention. Here comes the Wonkasm.
Sober voices said it could never happen. Hah! This is the day for which political wonks and pundits have pined like teenage boy for Miss April.
It's understandable, of course. Conventions have become such dull affairs, at least since 1976. The media wants something to do other than search for good bars in Cleveland.
They want something fun to write about while they search for good bars in Cleveland.
Then, there's the fact they want the GOP to crash and burn. A crazy-ass convention increases the odds. Their dream scenario is an tumultuous battle royal, punctuated with some old fashioned violence perpetrated by paid agitants from the left (shh!).
They will likely get their way. Here's what likely happens at a contested convention:
- Trump falls slightly short on the first ballot
- all hell breaks loose inside the convention hall
- liberals break things outside the convention hall
- Cruz wins
- Trump loses
There are those that still have this fantasy that Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney will descend, all deus ex machina, to save the day. Or maybe what's-his-name...help me out here...oh, yeah, Kasich. A lot of people are buying this. In fact, there's actually a one-in-three chance in the betting markets that one of these three guys will be the nominee.
Not going to happen. Rule 40, passed in 2012, says you can't be the nominee unless you win the majority of delegates in at least eight states. Does anyone think this year's delegates will revoke this rule to anoint a guy who didn't run in a single primary or participate in a single debate? Not a chance. (Irony alert: it was Mitt and his people that actually jammed this rule through in the first place.)
So, it's Trump or Cruz. And I can tell you that while Trump is out there playing the media game, the Cruz ground game specialists are working the inside game hard, specifically the actual delegates. Many of Trump's, when released, will switch to Cruz. It's hard to imagine many at all going the other way.
Plus, Rubio will likely throw his 149 delegates to Cruz. (Probably Kasich, too, although who knows what goes on in his head.) Plus, the establishment now seems to have settled for Cruz. They hate him, and they certainly tried to rationalize Trump (he knows how to make deals!), but Trump's unpredictability, particularly of late, makes him untenable. They can at least understand Cruz.
So look for all forces to be aligned against Trump.
While the punditry will be writing about this for years, it's hard to argue that any of this is good for the GOP. Cruz may very well make a fine candidate, but that doesn't change the fact that Trump's voters will be pissed. Best case, lots of them sit out the general. Worst case, they go vote for Trump as an independent.
But just when you think all is lost, there's this...
EDIT: Cruz just won 36 of Wisconsin's 42 delegates, which is exactly what I had in my spreadsheet. More importantly, though, he won by an astonishing 13 points. This gives Cruz considerable momentum, making a contested convention even more of a sure thing.