By Jim Ellis
April 5, 2016 — This past Sunday, the Drudge Report led with a story from a St. Louis political blogger who claimed Sen. Ted Cruz will be eliminated from obtaining a first ballot victory on April 26 even if he wins the Wisconsin primary today as all public polls indicate (The Gateway Pundit). The story’s premise is incorrect.
Joe Hoft, writing for the Gateway Pundit political blog, errs because he misunderstands the Republican National Committee delegate apportionment formulas. Therefore, to set the record straight, although Cruz is on political life support for a first ballot nomination, he likely won’t be mathematically eliminated this month.
Hoft misstates several points regarding exactly how the delegates are apportioned, particularly in the remaining Winner-Take-All by congressional district states. To capture all delegates in the seven states that use this system, one would have to place first in the statewide vote, and then carry every congressional district. Donald Trump accomplished this feat in South Carolina, but it appears unlikely Cruz will do so in Wisconsin today. Plus, Hoft’s projection (see chart in the linked article) that Trump would win two delegates from the Badger State is impossible because winning a CD awards the candidate three delegates. And, since even the three RNC delegates here are bound to the statewide winner, the remaining votes are assigned in groups of three after the 15 at-large delegates go to the statewide first-place finisher.
Maryland voters, who will cast their ballots as part of a five-state regional primary on April 26, is similar to Wisconsin in that it uses the same Winner-Take-All by congressional district system. Though having the same number of CDs as Wisconsin, Maryland has four fewer delegates because Republicans have performed better in the former, thus the Badger State earned bonus delegates. As in Wisconsin, it is unlikely that the Maryland statewide winner, presumably Trump, will carry all eight congressional districts and thereby convert it to backdoor Winner-Take-All status as the article suggests.
On the aforementioned Hoft chart, Pennsylvania is listed as a Winner-Take-All state. This is incorrect. The 14 at-large delegates are awarded to the statewide winner en masse, but the 54 congressional district delegates and the three RNC designates will enter the convention as unbound votes, thus making Pennsylvania anything but a Winner-Take-All state. As we can see, the apportionment formulas are complicated and the underlying rules are often different from what would be derived at first glance.
The fact that Cruz will not likely be eliminated on April 26 does not mean that the Texas senator will reverse course to the point of being in position to capture a first-ballot victory. As has been the case for some time, there are now just two potential conclusions to the Republican presidential campaign. Either Trump wins on the first ballot, or the contest falls into a multi-ballot brokered convention.
While Cruz’s only chance of winning the nomination, which is the same for Gov. John Kasich, emerges from the multi-roll call convention scenario, the prospects of someone other than Trump prevailing once the delegates are freed are also becoming more realistic.
In addition to the Louisiana Republican leadership engineering 10 extra delegates for Cruz by converting the five delegates from Sen. Marco Rubio and the five uncommitted votes as was widely reported at the end of March, Tennessee appears to have followed a similar path in their delegate selection process this weekend. Though Trump has a 33-16-9 advantage on the first ballot over Cruz and Rubio, the newly selected Tennessee delegation will reportedly abandon Trump en masse once they are freed to do so on the second and subsequent ballots.
The Cruz campaign’s emphasis in attempting to influence the state delegate selection process through the various local and state conventions appears to be paying dividends. The Trump’s campaign lack of focus on delegate selection until this late date now puts more pressure on his effort to secure a first-ballot victory. Therefore, the campaign must maximize its delegate take in the remaining 19 states yet to vote, particularly in Winner-Take-All by CD California on June 7. Despite Republicans performing poorly in the Golden State for decades, its sheer population size still yields the largest state delegation (172 delegates).