Why 1237 Means Trump’s Political Career is Over
By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard that Ted Cruz’ primary win in Wisconsin made Donald Trump’s chances of securing the GOP nomination more difficult. Folks, I’m here to let you know: Cruz’ Wisconsin victory means Trump will never see the inside of the Oval Office, unless invited by the President. This is where the dream crashes into reality, and as usually happens in that case, dreams end up in a thousand little pieces.
As you’ve heard ad nauseum by now, in order to secure the nomination on the first ballot at the GOP Convention in July, a candidate needs to have secured the votes of 1,237 delegates. Most states require their delegates to vote as instructed by the popular vote during the first ballot. Most don’t if voting goes to a second ballot, and only two require it on a third. By the time a fourth ballot is required, all delegates are free agents: they can vote for anyone they like.
There are two reasons why Trump will not win the nomination in a floor fight. To put it another way, Trump needs to 1,237 delegate votes on the first ballot, or else he’s toast. The first is that Trump’s lack of campaign organization has prevented him from having a significant presence at the state and county conventions where the delegates are actually chosen. The other is that his main rival may not be loved by the GOP establishment, but he has been a Republican for his entire life. He’s built a strong grass-roots network among other GOP activists, the very people who make up the bulk of the delegate selectees. That combination has led to a large bloc of delegates who, although required to vote Trump on the first ballot, will be voting Cruz on subsequent ballots. We already know Trump will lose the majority of delegates from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. We also know he will lose the entire South Carolina delegation. His inability to organize at the state level has cost him Colorado and North Dakota. Additionally, Cruz’ organizational strength makes it likely he will have a majority on the 112 delegate Rules Committee – and that will allow him to set rules in place that will further complicate Trump’s ability to wage a floor fight.
So, obviously, Trump desperately needs to get to 1237 and preferably more, so that he can withstand any defections from states that do not require their delegations to vote as per the popular vote (think Pennsylvania). While not impossible, the math would require he outperform what he’s done to date. To wit: as of this point, Trump has secured 37% of the GOP vote, and 714 delegates, or 45%. To get to 1237, he needs another 523 of the available 912 delegates, or 57%. All Cruz needs to do is hold Trump under 523 delegates in the remaining contests.
Begin in New York, with 95 delegates available. New York’s rules are relatively simple: for each congressional district won with a majority, the winning candidate receives 3 delegates. For each district won with a plurality, the winning candidate receives two delegates and the second place finisher (provided they receive at least 20% of the vote) receives one. Additionally, there are 14 at-large delegates. If a candidate receives a majority of the vote statewide, he receives all of them. Otherwise, they are allocated according to the popular vote, to all candidates receiving more than 20% of the vote. So, in order to secure all the delegates, Trump will not only need to win a majority in the state, but also in each of 27 individual districts. He is polling above 50% statewide, but not in every district. Because New York has roughly half of it’s population clustered in New York City, Queens, Kings, Staten Island, Suffolk, Westchester, Bronx and Nassau counties, Trump’s decided advantage there (around 90%, according to some polls) bodes well for the overall percentage. But Cruz will win several upstate counties, and John Kasich may actually hold Trump under 50% in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester. It is more likely that Trump will go to bed on April 19 with about 60 more delegates than he woke up with.
The other sizable contest is in California, another apportioned state. Similar to New York, the state awards 3 delegates for every congressional district won by a candidate. While Trump is polling slightly ahead of Cruz in the Golden State, Cruz has a decided advantage in the Los Angeles area, with it’s 54 delegates, and the Orange County area, with another 18 delegates. Overall, California has 172 delegates available, but it’s unlikely that Trump gets more than 90.
There are several states remaining that are winner take all, but most of these are probably going to end up in Cruz’ column. The only one of these Trump is expected to win is New Jersey, with 51 delegates. Cruz is expected to carry Indiana (57 delegates), Montana (27) and South Dakota (29).
So, that means Trump will need to garner 313 of the other 481 delegates remaining. New Mexico’s 24 delegates are unbound, so call it 313 of 457. And Pennsylvania has a quirky method of allocating delegates – only 17 are bound, the remaining 54 unbound. So, assuming Trump carries the state with a plurality and receives 12 of the 17 committed delegates, that means he needs to carry 301 of the remaining 386 delegates. Even though the remaining contests are primarily in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, which are areas Trump is expected to do very well in, grabbing 78% of those delegates is a herculean feat. There is absolutely no margin of error, no way more unforced errors such as led up to the Wisconsin primary can roil the headlines.
So what about the oft-threatened independent Trump candidacy? There are unsurmountable obstacles to his mounting one. Indeed, there is a reason Trump entered the race as a Republican, rather than attempting to resurrect the Reform Party or another independent bid. It comes down to money. Trump is not a poor man, but most of his estimated $2.4 billion net worth is not in disposable assets. It’s tied up in major real estate or marketing licenses. Coming up with the estimated $750 million to $1 billion required to mount an independent presidential campaign is no small feat. Indeed, campaign rhetoric aside, Trump hasn’t even been able to afford the primary bid he’s mounted: according to his latest FEC filing, he’s been forced to raise $25 million from outside sources. Further dispelling the notion of a self-financed campaign, Trump’s campaign announced on Tuesday they would be soliciting donors should he prevail at the Convention.
When combined with the organization required to ensure ballot access in all 50 states, an organization he lacks, the opportunity to mount an independent bid has already passed. It’s why the other billionaire who seriously considered entering the race as an independent set March 1 as his drop dead decision day.
So there you have it. The odds of Donald Trump securing the Republican nomination are somewhere between razor thin and none. The odds of him mounting an independent campaign are even less. Donald Trump’s political career effectively ended last Tuesday.
And for that, we can all breath a little easier.