Will Donald Trump get the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the Republican nomination on the first ballot?
He better hope so. Because if it goes to a second ballot, it’s very unlikely Trump will be the Republican nominee. Here are four things to watch in order to judge whether Trump is on track to hit 1,237.
1.) Watch to see if the assumptions pan out
Trump is expected to win between 75 percent to over 90 percent of the 213 bound delegates up for grabs in New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island on April 19 and 26. Of the 96 bound delegates in play on May 17 in Oregon, May 24 in Washington and June 7 in New Mexico, Trump should win 40 to 50 percent of those. He is also expected to win all or nearly all of the 34 delegates up for grabs in West Virginia on May 10 and all the 51 bound delegates in Winner-Take-All New Jersey on June 7.
Conventional wisdom also suggests Trump will lose to [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore] in Winner-Take-All Nebraska on May 10 and Winner-Take-All Montana and South Dakota on June 7.
If these assumptions don’t pan out and Trump doesn’t win the states and delegates he is expected to, then his path to 1,237 will narrow, perhaps dramatically so. Conversely, if Trump wins states he is expected to lose — especially Winner-Take-All states — that will only increase the likelihood he will reach 1,237.
2.) Watch Indiana
Trump doesn’t have to win Indiana and most of its 57 delegates to hit 1,237, but a win there would makes the task much easier. Thirty delegates are awarded to whomever wins the state, with the rest awarded at the congressional district level. No public poll of Indiana has yet been released and some election watchers consider it a toss-up. If Trump ends up winning the state, that makes his chances of winning the nomination on the first ballot much more likely.
3.) Stay up late on June 7 to see what happens in California
California is the most important state left on the primary calendar.
If Trump turns in an impressive performance and wins an overwhelming share of the state’s 172 delegates, he will almost certainly hit 1,237 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination on the first ballot. If he gets wiped out in California, it will be very hard for him to win the nomination.
Right now, polls show Trump with a narrow lead over Cruz in The Golden State. But most of its delegates are awarded at the congressional district level. Each of the state’s 53 congressional districts bestow 3 delegates to whomever wins it. Though Trump leads the state overall, a recent Field poll showed Cruz with the lead in two big regions of the state that contain all or part of 26 congressional districts (or 78 delegates). Some also think John Kasich could be competitive in certain districts if he is still in the race.
There is just under two months until California Republican primary voters get their say. Plenty of time for Trump to expand his lead, or for Cruz to supplant him.
4.) The unbound delegates could be critical
Imagine if Trump hits his targets in the states he is supposed to win (remember those assumptions), loses Indiana (but still picks up 6 to 9 delegates) and wins California but not overwhelmingly (let’s say he garners 94 delegates).
In that very possible scenario, Trump would come into the Republican National Convention in July with somewhere between, say, 1,157 to 1,187 pledged delegates. He would then have to attract 50 to 80 delegates from the 150 or so unbound delegates available.
It’s certainly possible for Trump to attract enough of those unbound delegates to win, especially if he comes in closer to the 1,190 pledged delegate number than to the 1,160 number. A good chunk of the unbound delegates will come from Pennsylvania (54) and many of those vying to be delegates in the Keystone State have either expressed support for Trump or said they would support whichever candidate won their congressional district. If Trump does well in Pennsylvania, it’s not hard to imagine him convincing a large majority of the unbound Pennsylvania delegates to support him, at least on the first ballot.
[dcquiz] That could be all Trump needs to win the nomination. But if Trump still needs a few dozen more unbound delegates, it will be a much tougher task because of Cruz’s successful efforts to get delegates favorable to him (or at least opposed to Trump) elected in states like Colorado and North Dakota.
In short, if Trump comes into the convention 50 or so delegates short of the nomination, he will have a pretty reasonable chance of cobbling together enough unbound delegates to win the nomination. If he comes into the convention needing many more delegates than that, there is a pretty good chance no one will win the nomination on the first ballot.
And as more delegates become unbound on subsequent ballots, chances are Cruz will be the beneficiary.