The race for the Republican nomination for the presidency increasingly looks like it will go to an open convention in Cleveland. It is virtually impossible for any candidate to get a majority of the delegates, 1237, prior to the GOP convention. The reality of this situation has seemingly gotten under the skin of Donald Trump as he has increasingly calling the nominating process “unfair.”
Just to show you how unfair Republican primary politics can be, I won the State of Louisiana and get less delegates than Cruz-Lawsuit coming
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2016
While I believe I will clinch before Cleveland and get more than 1237 delegates, it is unfair in that there have been so many in the race!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2016
Here’s where the delegate count stands today. This is the primary battle that up until now Trump has been winning.
If Donald Trump fails to get to 1237 delegates, nothing will have been stolen from him. He just plain didn’t earn it.
Ted Cruz has been winning the usually secondary battle for the actual delegates who will go to the convention. Many of those delegates are bound to Trump for the first ballot of an open convention. These are the same delegates who will be able to set the rules of the convention. As this has become clear, the Trump campaign has become more inflammatory in their rhetoric. Take for example their statement after last night’s Wisconsin defeat.
NEW: Trump campaign statement tonight pic.twitter.com/ycqP3IJYWn
— Robert Costa (@costareports) April 6, 2016
The statement clearly states the opinion that “party bosses” are trying to “steal the nomination” from Mr. Trump. But here’s the deal, you can’t have something stolen from you, if it isn’t yours. If Donald Trump fails to get to 1237 delegates, nothing will have been stolen from him. He just plain didn’t earn it.
The rules of the nominating process to be the general election candidate of the Republican Party for the presidency were set before the process began. At least in regards to delegate allocation, selection, and binding. The Call of the Convention was finalized on November 30, 2015. The call outlined the rules of the primary and caucus season, went through exact delegate allocation, and outlined general guidelines on how each state can select and bind delegates. This was available two months in advance of the first primary.
There are 56 different state, territorial, or federal district Republican Parties. Each one had their own rules for selecting delegates. Besides the carve-out for the first four states, it was known that no state could hold a winner-take-all contest, prior to March 15th. The only other major rule that constrained state parties said that if a state binds delegates, the three state members of the RNC must also be bound. Other than that, each state was free to choose how it would bind, or not bind delegates, and how the delegates were selected. Every candidate knew those rules beforehand.
Because of the large field of candidates at the beginning of the process, many people have been predicting an open convention from the beginning. Some campaigns have been preparing for that as part of their campaign strategy; the Trump campaign was not. They didn’t even hire someone to be in charge of delegates until after they started losing the delegate selection conventions and caucuses. It is almost too late and as the saying goes, “piss poor planning prevents proper performance.”
Trump Has Benefited from the Rules
While he has decried the rules as being unfair, Trump himself has benefitted from them. He has obtained a greater proportion of delegates than his proportion of votes and up until now the rules have allowed him to do this.
Trump has received 37 percent of the vote in those states that have held binding caucuses and primaries. He has earned 46 percent of the delegates. That is almost ten percent more delegates than if the Republican contests were completely proportional.
The Republican nominating contest, in fact, is geared towards helping the front runner. This is for a variety of factors meant to accelerate the coalescing around a nominee. Those factors include thresholds for delegate allocation, winner-take-all contests, and winner-take-most rules that give all delegates in a proportional primary to someone who earns over 50 percent of the vote.
The rules were changed in 2012 to benefit the front runner at the behest of Mitt Romney. That Trump has been unable to fully capitalize on these rules is nobody’s fault but his own. This is especially true, given that Donald Trump has benefitted from these rules that benefit the front runner at every turn. This was most notable when he won the Florida Primary, and 99 delegates in a fractured field, he now decries. He did so with less than 50 percent of the vote.
Here’s another way at looking how the rules have actually benefitted Trump. He has needed far fewer votes per delegate than any other candidate over this season. For instance, he’s needed about 1200 fewer votes per delegate than Cruz. Rubio and Kasich have needed almost double that.
Contrary to Trump’s claims, the rules have actually been stacked in his favor. That he has not prepared to take advantage of them is his own fault. Things like running a country and a campaign are complex, involve rules, and require a person to execute on them. Perhaps Trump’s inability to use the rules, which have been stacked in his favor, to win the nomination are a real indicator that he is unready to lead the country.
Robert Eno is the Director of Research for Conservative Review and also is a Contributor. He is a conservative from deep blue Massachusetts but now lives in Greenville, SC. He is also a fill in radio host and appears on television. Follow him @robeno and feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.