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April 12, 2016

A Conservatives' Guide To A Contested GOP Convention

  Washington Examiner

Ted Cruz's strong victory in Wisconsin last Tuesday and Colorado on Saturday means the GOP is one step closer to a contested convention. For conservatives not steeped in Republican convention protocol, here's what you need to know.

It takes 1,237 votes by Republican state delegates to win the nomination. Currently, Donald Trump has 743 and Cruz 545, according to Bloomberg convention delegate tracker. Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus has made it clear that if a candidate arrives in Cleveland with 1,237 votes or more, that candidate will get the nomination.

There are 16 states left to vote. The last five, with a total of 303 delegates — including California with 172 and New Jersey with 51 — will vote on June 7.

Even if Donald Trump hasn't gained the requisite 1,237 by June 7, he could still win on the first ballot. That's because there are several states and territories whose delegates are "unbound," which means they don't have to follow the results of a primary election, and may not declare who they will support until the GOP converntion.

But Cruz just picked up 13 of Colorado's unbound delegates and 21 of the state's other delegates. When Pennsylvania votes April 26, 54 of its 71 delegates will be unbound. In other words, the unbound delegate tally is a moving target.

In a very close convention, those unbound delegates could decide the outcome of the first ballot.

If no candidate receives 1,237 on the first ballot, around 60 percent of the delegates will be freed from their initial obligation and can change their vote on the second ballot. If the second doesn't produce a winner, even more delegates will be free from their original commitment.

Trump has criticized this process, claiming that if he comes to the convention with more votes than the other candidates, though short of a majority, he should still win. It's a strange argument from the candidate who claims to be the world's best dealmaker. All he needs to do is convince delegates who are free to vote with their conscience to vote for him.

But it appears the Cruz team is doing a better job of getting Cruz supporters elected as delegates to the national convention, which wouldn't be surprising since no one has accused Trump of having a well-organized ground game. On a second ballot, those who are free to vote their preference could then support Cruz.

What about Rule 40(b), passed at the 2012 Republican Convention at the behest of the Romney campaign? It says that a candidate must win a majority of state delegates — not the popular vote, but delegates, which depends on how each state distributes those votes — in eight states to be eligible.

At this point, Trump has not won a majority of the popular vote in any state, but he has the majority of state delegates in 11 states. Cruz appears to have won the majority of delegates in seven states and territories. Thus it is likely that Trump and Cruz will be the only ones to qualify under the rule.

Unless the RNC changes that rule. The Rules Committee, which is made up of selected state delegates, will meet in Cleveland the week before to pass the rules that will guide the convention. Since we don't know what the committee might do — no one expected Rule 40(b) until it passed the 2012 convention — it's hard to predict exactly what will happen.

One possible outcome, especially if Trump has a strong lead in delegates but not a majority, is for Cruz and John Kasich to combine forces as the presidential and vice presidential candidates. If the two's combined votes coming into the convention exceed 1,237, then they could claim that they have the most votes.

If Trump is denied the GOP nomination, it isn't too late for him to run as an independent — though it wouldn't be easy.

State filing deadlines for independent and third-party candidates are very late. All but five are in July, August and September. Four of those five are in June. Some don't require much more than filling out a form and paying a filing fee; others require thousands of signatures. With Trump's money and popular backing, he could likely overcome those hurdles in most states.

In addition, there are various political parties — think of Ross Perot's old Reform Party — that are, or could be, on various state ballots. If a political party in a state nominates Trump to be their candidate, he will be on the ballot. In other words, Trump might run as an independent in some states and a third-party candidate in others. That makes no difference; getting on the ballot is all that matters

Even with Trump's money and popular support, an independent run would be difficult if not impossible. That goes double for a Republican who, upset if Trump received the GOP nomination, decided to go it alone.

Both scenarios could easily throw the election to Hillary Clinton, and Republicans would have squandered one of their best chances to take back the White House.



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