Hayes: Stop Trump? A brokered convention is most realistic


Bob Hayes, Columnist

After 11 states went to the polls to select a Republican presidential candidate on Tuesday, the dominant narrative of the current campaign centers on Donald Trump, who gained victories in seven states on Tuesday alone, and inevitability earned the nomination.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who won three states and 209 delegates on Tuesday, appears to stand as the most viable alternative to the maligned Trump, particularly after Florida Sen. Marco Rubio failed to secure victory outside of Minnesota, his only win so far. Additionally, Ohio Gov. John Kasich only managed to win 19 delegates on Tuesday, while the campaign seems to have reached its end for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

The combination of Trump’s commanding breadth of wins, Cruz’s surprising victories, Rubio’s underwhelming performances and Kasich’s lack of delegates has led many to call for the latter two candidates to exit the race and give Cruz a chance at beating Trump one-on-one. Yet, if we crunch the numbers, continued threats from all remaining candidates could quite likely lead to a brokered convention, in which case Rubio or Kasich would have a reasonable shot at winning the nomination. Because of this possibility, it makes sense for each of the four remaining Republican presidential candidates to stay in the race.

This year’s candidate mess beyond the vehemently opposed Trump has led many of us political enthusiasts to dust off our history books — or, more realistically, our Wikipedia search bars — to recall what happens if no presidential candidate successfully wins a majority of delegates in primary elections. This case, called a brokered or contested convention, would take place for the first time in modern political history if no presidential candidate secures 1,237 delegates by the end of the primary cycle. Under a brokered convention, all delegates are free from their pledged candidates and can vote for any candidate, with delegates continuously voting in rounds until a particular candidate wins a majority of delegates.

Realistically speaking, it is hard to imagine any candidate will successfully pull off the upset over Trump for the Republican nomination. Thus, a brokered convention, which would likely lead to delegates voting for more establishment-friendly candidates, stands as the only legitimate possibility of preventing a Trump nomination.

Although the resounding narrative parades Trump’s 10 state victories, he has only gained 46 percent of awarded delegates, which is the far more relevant statistic considering what Trump ultimately needs is not a certain number of state victories but 51 percent of delegates. Based on purely that 46 percent, many would immediately conclude Trump actually faces an uphill battle to win 51 percent of delegates.

However, based on FiveThirtyEight’s metrics that take into account demographics and voting records of states, Trump has actually surpassed his necessary delegate targets thus far: “Trump pulls a disproportionate share of his support from voters without a college degree, so he tends to do better in contests with less-educated electorates,” Aaron Bycoffe writes. “Looking forward, Trump should win more delegates in states with fewer college-educated voters. If Trump hits his targets in the remaining contests, he’ll end up with 1,276 delegates out of 2,472 — 52 percent.”

Still, there is a strong variable of conditionality regarding whether Trump successfully hits these targets. The firestorm of anti-Trump rhetoric from opposing campaigns will likely only increase as the main focus of each campaign must now be to prevent Trump from accruing 1,237 delegates. This task would hardly be plausible if taken on alone by Cruz, who has similar problems garnering support beyond his voting block.

The movement to stop Trump, particularly in the near future, necessitates the continued campaigns of Rubio and Kasich. On March 15, the GOP lifts its embargo on winner-take-all primaries and immediately holds massive winner-take-all elections in Rubio’s home state of Florida and Kasich’s Ohio. Without Rubio and Kasich, Trump would almost certainly gain 165 delegates from those two states alone.

The value of the two establishment candidates extends far beyond these two states — any delegates won by them, which will presumably be substantial, are delegates not won by Trump. Without these two candidates’ participation, it is unreasonable to assume their supporters would all suddenly vote for Cruz — many would likely defect to Trump or not vote at all, ensuring a Trump nomination.

Finally, from the perspective of individual gain, both Rubio and Kasich, with their support from party leaders and moderates, can expect a quality chance at the nomination in the case of a brokered convention.

Although many can easily look at Trump’s slate of victories as a sign of his inevitable nomination, others see the alternative to be a one-on-one competition with Cruz potentially tipping in the Texan’s favor. However, the legitimate possibility of a brokered convention means the most realistic shot at halting the Trump train is a continued assault from all remaining candidates until primary season’s bitter end.

Bob Hayes is a Weinberg junior. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].
The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.