Trump Creating an Open Convention?

Sept. 9, 2015 — Now that Donald Trump has pledged to remain in the Republican nomination process and not enter the general election as an Independent, can the current front runner win a majority of pledged delegates? Can he do so outside of a brokered convention?

In actuality, Trump’s current situation makes going to an open convention even more likely than originally believed.

To review what we have previously stated several times during the year, holding a brokered Republican convention for the first time in what will be 96 years could happen if several elements fell into place.

First, a field featuring a large number of candidates is required. No question the 17 contenders who comprise the Republican candidate universe certainly qualify as being “large”.

Second, the field would produce no clear leader. While one can legitimately argue that Trump has now become the front-runner, a mitigating factor will be later explained that neutralizes his current advantage.

Third, the party has only a small number of Winner-Take-All primaries. So far, only Ohio has newly adopted such a status, meaning the grand total of WTA nomination events is only seven for a grand total of 349 delegates, or 14.1 percent of the entire Republican delegate composition. (The outlying territories which vote in the nomination process: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands, and the US Virgin Islands will likely opt for WTA status for their delegate slates. Each of these entities is awarded nine delegates. Adding them to the Winner-Take-All pool swells the number to 385 from 349, and 15.6 percent of the total delegate universe.) There is still time for many state parties to change their status, but it is doubtful that more will alter their processes.

Fourth, the first four events (February, 2016: Iowa Caucus, New Hampshire primary, South Carolina primary, Nevada Caucus) would produce four different winners. Even though Trump leads virtually everywhere today, him winning more than one of these preliminary events won’t drastically change the field status vis-à-vis creating a wave of unstoppable momentum. These states have small delegate quotas, and must be proportional according to Republican National Committee rules, therefore any candidate’s delegate lead at the end of February will be minimal.

Fifth, one or more candidates is uncompromising and refuses to release his or her substantial lot of delegates, thereby preventing the leader from reaching a majority. This Republican field features more than enough contenders who appear uncompromising.

And, sixth, candidates will hold their delegates if they think the convention may broker, thus the open conclave becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Trump caveat pertains to his polling standing, both positive and negative. While he consistently breaks 20 percent nationally, and even higher in the key early states, his hard negative -– meaning those who will “never” vote for him -– remains equivalent to his committed support. Therefore, Trump’s polarization of the Republican voting block allows the other candidates to envision a victory path even though they may be well behind. Waiting for what they (the other candidates) believe is an inevitable Trump “implosion”, the early front-runner’s high negatives will dissuade the other candidates from ending their campaigns.

Though Donald Trump has become a formidable candidate and the party appears to have avoided his disastrous (for them) third party run, we are still a very long way from seeing whether the Republicans will crown him as their 2016 presidential nominee. It appears more possible than ever that action on the floor of the Republican National Convention next July could finally determine the nominee after multiple roll call votes.

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