It’s a word that has long defined the 2016 presidential election for both parties. It’s a word that Democrats assigned to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s candidacy years ago. And while it’s a word that has largely characterized the race for the Democratic nomination, the Republican race has had an air of inevitability from the beginning as well.
Two years ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was labeled by many as the inevitable GOP nominee. More recently, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was deemed the inevitable choice. Over a dozen failed campaigns and many shocking developments later, Donald Trump — the GOP’s latest “inevitable” candidate — appears destined to win the nomination.
The inevitability of Trump winning is one that many establishment Republicans refuse to accept and that some don’t even realize exists. And although it’s true that other “inevitable” candidates have ultimately failed, the delegate math and the calendar are both on Trump’s side.
Trump dominated in the early-voting states, taking home big wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada while quickly beginning to pile up dozens of delegates. The real-estate mogul solidified his lead on Super Tuesday, racking up wins in seven of the 11 states that held primaries and caucuses.
As of now, Trump has amassed a total of 384 pledged delegates for the nominating convention this summer. Republican candidates need 1,237 total delegates to secure the nomination, and Trump leads his main rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, by 84 delegates. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is even further behind Trump with just 151 delegates to his name.
Cruz picked up some momentum with wins in Kansas and Maine on “Super Saturday” last weekend, but Trump also won two states and maintained his delegate lead. The fact that most southern states have already voted also doesn’t bode well for Cruz, who was once expected to see great success in the South.
As if things weren’t already going well for Trump, the delegate math should be even more promising for him starting March 15 — when states are allowed to hold winner-take-all primaries and caucuses. According to Real Clear Politics, Trump has a double-digit lead over Cruz in national polling averages. If those numbers and Trump’s early successes hold true, the billionaire should continue to pile up delegates in the remaining primaries and caucuses over the next several weeks.
Barring some sort of cataclysmic disaster for his campaign, Trump should win more delegates than any other candidate and is very likely to earn the delegates necessary for the nomination. Right now, it looks like the only way for someone other than Trump to win the nomination would be for Trump to fall short of the delegates necessary to secure the nomination. If that were to happen, the Republican nominee would be decided by a contested or “brokered” convention this summer, in which delegates are no longer bound to vote for the candidate who won their state.
If Republicans faced a brokered convention, delegates could rally around another candidate, such as Cruz or establishment-favorite Rubio. Of course, for that to happen, the remaining candidates would have to peel away enough delegates from Trump to prevent him from reaching the necessary 1,237 delegates. Perhaps the only way of doing that would be for Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to win their home states of Florida and Ohio — which happen to be the most delegate-rich winner-take-all states. Polls show tight races in both states, and both vote March 15.
The idea of a brokered convention, though still unlikely, has been following the GOP race since Trump began climbing the polls last summer. As the real-estate mogul took a commanding lead in national polls and establishment-favorite candidates like Bush failed to gain traction with primary voters, many began to wonder if the only way for someone not named Trump to lead the party in November was a contested convention.
A brokered convention would, in theory, give the party a chance to rally around a consensus candidate. More likely, however, it would further divide the party and lead to a nasty and unpredictable conclusion to what has already been a nasty and unpredictable race.
A full-out political brawl at the convention probably isn’t what Republicans want to see when their party is trying to win back the White House. But for those who don’t want Trump to be their nominee, it might be their only hope. Because for someone other than Trump to win the nomination, it looks like all hell would have to break loose at the convention in July.
Yes, a brokered convention would be both shocking and historic. But based on what we’ve already seen in this race, we shouldn’t expect anything less.