Another day, another twist in the nomination race. Trump and Cruz both won two states yesterday but Cruz got the most delegates. Neither got half of those available. Both called on Marco Rubio to drop out. It seems strange that men who laud the competition of the marketplace should want to restrain trade in delegates but there you go. They are nothing if not inconsistent.
Of course, the desire for Rubio to go is clear once you understand what’s coming up – the so-called winner-take-all states. Unlike the many primaries where the delegates are awarded proportionally, in other states a candidate has a chance to take all of the delegates by winning the state. But there is a catch – while in some (Florida and Ohio are the most important) you simply have to get the most votes, in others you need to get 50% of the vote, something no Republican candidate has done in any vote so far.
With Rubio in the race – and he’s not likely to leave soon, not with a likely victory in Puerto Rico on the horizon today – it is very hard for either Trump or Cruz to ever top 50%. Add in John Kasich who is still hanging in and gaining a few more delegates every day and that goal becomes impossible. And Rubio and Kasich have to be considered real threats in the Florida and Ohio respectively where all they need to do is finish on top by a single vote to take a rich haul of delegates.
So what’s the big deal? Without the winner take all states, it is extremely doubtful that anyone can win enough delegates to get the nomination before the convention. Imagine this: Trump and Cruz arrive at the convention in first and second place but well short of the magic number. Rubio and Kasich are still in the race and, on top of that, there are the delegates that were won by candidates who dropped out and are now free agents. Some states, like Louisiana yesterday, even have provisions for sending some unbound delegates.
You might think that in such a situation either Trump or Cruz would have to win – but it ain’t necessarily so. After the first round of voting – when Kasich will likely drop out – all the delegates become unbound. They can now vote for whomever they like. Most will stick with their chosen man but some might drift away to Rubio or even to someone nominated from the convention floor. And while Trump and Cruz may seem similarly right wing to those on the outside, on the inside they despise each other. If people move it won’t be between those two camps but to somewhere else.
Now suppose that someone other than Trump or Cruz get the nomination? Will that cause the party to split apart once and for all? Will Cruz run as a Tea Party candidate and Trump as an independent? Three candidates on the right (or even two) mean a sure Democratic victory, no matter who the candidate over there might be.
And as to that, Bernie Sanders won two states to Clinton’s one yesterday but the magnitude of the latter’s win in Louisiana means she won more delegates and pulled ever closer to an insurmountable lead. While I’m pretty sure that neither of them would run an independent campaign, it could be fun to see them try. Throw in Bloomberg on a third (sixth) party ticket and you’ll need to be a constitutional expert to figure out the winner. If you think the Supreme Court involvement in the Bush-Gore result was crazy, wait until the House of Representatives gets involved.
And that’s ten minutes.