Did you know Donald Trump’s opponents have more first ballot delegates than he: 831 (Cruz 517, Rubio 171, Kasich 143) to 743.
If they get together they will defeat him.
More than half of the commentators on a recent Fox News show did not understand either, complaining that the candidate who won the most primary votes should be the nominee.
The same media probably still cannot figure out how George W. Bush beat Al Gore for president in 2000 when Gore won the popular vote.
The answer is the same. It all depends on the rules.
In Bush’s case, the Constitution required winning a majority of Electoral College votes by state rather than the national popular vote total.
For the GOP, it will be the Rules of the Republican Party — which the U.S. Supreme Court judged could override even state law.
Those rules require that a candidate win a majority of delegates no matter the popular vote. Those who think this unfair have the right to refuse to support the party nominee.
The media cannot grasp this simple fact but neither could those in charge.
After dismissing a contested convention as “highly unlikely” and implying for months there was something suspect about holding one, Republican party chairman Reince Priebus finally made the rounds of the talk shows to concede one is possible.
He even added that there is “nothing nefarious” about one. Of course not, it is required by his party’s rules.
Donald Trump complained, “This is supposed to be a system of votes.” Primary elections are what count and he had “millions of millions” more than his opponents so he should be declared the nominee.
A poll of Republicans tended to agree with him. But the fact is nominations are not about popular votes and it is only relatively recently that primaries even chose many delegates.
When Ted Cruz legitimately collected more delegates in Louisiana after Trump had won a plurality of votes, The Donald called it cheating and threatened a riot if he were denied victory.
Even Cruz came late to grasping that delegates are what count since he campaigned seriously in Ohio when it was in his interest to have Kasich win and deny those delegates to Trump.
Following a Washington meeting of top Republican political strategists, one admitted that no one in the room had any idea how to deal with a contested presidential convention. It is understandable. There has not been one since 1976 and few are left who have a clue.
One who is not confused is a long-ago convention expert pal named Roger Stone who recommended his former partner to lead Trump’s belated delegate effort and had the gall to complain there was something subversive about delegates deciding the nominee!
Riots are still an option and this is in fact what happened at the 1968 Democratic convention, to cost the party the following election. But once the delegates selected him Hubert Humphrey remained the party nominee anyway.
In fact, Trump has yet to win a majority vote in any state. He would now have to win a large majority of both popular and delegate votes to come to Cleveland with a delegate majority much less a vote majority.
Two-thirds of the remaining contests are open only to Republican voters whereas Trump has done better in contests open to independents and Democrats.
Trump does much better among moderates and moderate conservatives while Cruz wins by a 10 percent margin among “very conservative” voters who organize better especially for selecting delegates.
The normal impression of delegates is as carousers off on a week-long party binge and at normal conventions that is not far off except for those on the major committees on platform, rules and credentials.
But when the convention is contested, everything changes. The delegates understand the importance and sober up.
In 1976, I can guarantee from personal experience that every delegate realized their one vote counted and proceeded accordingly.
It came down to one state, Mississippi, an old party pro and his gang of party warriors, who took very seriously the decisions they made. In the end, Gerald Ford’s incumbency overcame Ronald Reagan’s charisma.
In 1948, the last time there were multiple convention ballots, the tone was even more serious.
Attracting votes is simply mass media sound-bites while winning delegates is convincing real people.
The two contests could not be more different.
State and local conventions give some experience in the skills necessary but national delegates are more experienced and sophisticated — mostly party functionaries and activists but more Main Street solid citizens than Wall Street establishment, and therefore that much more difficult to manipulate.
Convention delegates are as close to normal human beings as can be found in political decision-making and the fate of any party could not be in better hands.
Donald Devine is senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies, the author of "America’s Way Back: Reclaiming Freedom, Tradition and Constitution," and was Ronald Reagan’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management during his first term. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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