Primaries: Paths to the Nomination

By Eric Quintanar Betty Zhou for DPR

As the presidential candidate pool narrows, many contenders for the Republican and Democratic nomination believe in their chances at being chosen as the presidential candidate for their party’s ticket. Some candidates have a legitimate case for believing that they will indeed be the nominees. But for others, barring an act of God, these beliefs will remain rooted in fantasy.

In order to win the Democratic nomination, a candidate must receive a majority of the 4,763 through state primaries and caucuses. If a candidate receives at least 15 percent of the vote for a state, then they are awarded delegates proportional to their performance in that state. However, of the 4,763 delegates, 712 are superdelegates who are not tied to the voting outcomes of the state. These delegates consist of prominent Democrats such as members of the House of Representatives, and former presidents.

Currently, Hillary Clinton is leading Bernie Sanders (I-VT) with 1231 delegates compared to Sanders’ 576 delegates. Hillary’s vast political resume and wide-name recognition appeals people who have voted in primaries before, while Bernie Sanders’ optimistic rhetoric has been well received among young people and first-time voters. In order for Hillary to maintain her lead, she must focus on her experience, and stop relying on being on her being a woman; as if gender makes someone anymore or less qualified to be president.

Bernie Sanders is currently behind in delegates and in states. He won 85 percent of the vote in his home state of Vermont, and has won two other northeastern states. However, he is currently fighting an uphill battle and in order to expand his support, he needs to prove that he is a viable candidate, and that means mobilizing his base. Once the Democratic primary goers see that he actually has a chance of winning, he may be able to build on the momentum and win more states and delegates. As of last weekend he has won several mid-western states, demonstrating that he is capable of appealing to voters from different areas of the country. This might show other future primary voters that he is capable of beating the Clinton-machine, and push him over the edge for the nomination.

The Republican nomination process is a little more complicated. Although there are no superdelegates like there are in the Democratic nomination process, each state chooses how they assign their delegates to candidates based off of their performance. In New Hampshire, for example, delegates are assigned proportionally, but in Florida, delegates are assigned according to a winner-take-all system.

The current front-runner of the Republican field, Donald Trump, has amassed 460 delegates of the 1,237 needed to win the nomination. He is also currently polling at 49 percent nationally according to a CNN poll released the day before “Super Tuesday”. It is of particular importance to note that no Republican candidate has ever won the combination of southern and northeastern states that Trump has.

Trump’s off-the-wall macho fight-for-the-common folk attitude appeals to many working class Republicans and Democrats alike. His lack of core principles and his amazing ability to flip-flop on issue yet not receive any blowback from his supporters demonstrates the strength of the Donald Trump movement. Take for example, the Fox News debate on March 3, in which he stated he was now supporting H1B visas for new immigrants. Yet, the day before he had gone on TV and stated that he was against H1B visas, and then an hour after the debate, said he was against H1B visas. Such a willingness to change policy positions at a whim without negative repercussions shows that Donald Trump can only lose the nomination through collusion between the GOP candidates or through the RNC itself.

At this point in the race, only two scenarios can keep Trump from getting the nomination. The first one is that Marco Rubio (R-FL) drops out and endorses Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has 370 delegates and has won states from many different regions. This would give Cruz the opportunity to develop a strong traditional-conservative coalition and possibly allow him to compete against Trump’s neo-populist movement. Rubio has only won one state so far, Minnesota, despite being supported by the Republican establishment and deep-pocketed donors. His current strategy is to win Florida, at which point he will have won two states, hardly enough to carry him through June. Even if he somehow did build momentum, he would not have the eight state minimum needed to be the republican nominee. The media must dispense with the notion that Rubio is still a viable candidate.

It is possible that Rubio has already embraced this strategy and is preparing to endorse Cruz. At the Fox News debate Rubio has been throwing punches at Trump in an effort to de-throne him.This makes both Trump and Rubio look dirty while Cruz remains clean. It is a similar strategy to what Chris Christie did to Rubio before dropping out and endorsing Trump. If this is not indeed Rubio’s strategy, then him staying in the race may prove helpful for preventing a Trump nomination, so long as John Kasich (R-OH) stays in the race until the Ohio Primary.

The second scenario, and the seemingly more likely one, would involve John Kasich (R-OH) securing the state of Ohio and Rubio securing the state of Florida. I am dismissing the possibility of Kasich winning the nomination outright. Although he has the experience, every debate he complains that there is too much fighting in politics; as we can see with the rise of Donald Trump, voters aren’t very thrilled with the idea of a President who won’t fight for them. However, if Kasich can deny Trump Ohio, then this, combined with Cruz capitalizing on his momentum and winning more upcoming states, may be enough to deny Trump the delegate count needed for winning the nomination outright. However, this would result in a brokered convention, which could anger the populist fire that yearns for Trump.

Trump’s appeal is that he is a strong man, who will fight for the American people after they’ve spent years being shafted by the political establishment. If a brokered convention were to happen, and Trump were not drafted as the nominee, his base would see it as another Washington deal gone awry, and would give Trump the fuel he would need to run a third-party nomination.