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Eye On Candidates
March 7, 2016

Contested Republican Convention More Likely Than Ever

With four candidates remaining, the odds of a contested Republican convention in Cleveland where no candidate has a majority of delegates are higher than ever, according to Josh Kraushaar at National Journal:

The Odds of a Contested Convention Have Never Been Higher

Don­ald Trump’s not-so-ma­gic num­ber in the Re­pub­lic­an primar­ies is 34 per­cent. That’s the av­er­age share of the vote Trump has re­ceived in the first 19 con­tests. He won one-third of the vote in the four early races, 34 per­cent on Su­per Tues­day, and a dis­ap­point­ing 33 per­cent av­er­age in the smal­ler-state races held this week­end. At a time when can­did­ates usu­ally in­crease their sup­port, Trump’s is stun­ted….

But des­pite [Ted] Cruz’s as­cend­ancy and Ru­bio’s col­lapse, the like­li­hood of a con­tested con­ven­tion has nev­er been high­er. [Marco] Ru­bio is pour­ing all his re­sources and en­ergy in­to his home state of Flor­ida and its 99 win­ner-take-all del­eg­ates, a last-ditch ef­fort to get his cam­paign back on track. He is be­ing aided by the anti-Trump group Our Prin­ciples PAC, which is sat­ur­at­ing Flor­ida’s ex­pens­ive TV mar­kets with scath­ing Trump oppo. A poll con­duc­ted by the group shows Ru­bio with­in five points of Trump, hold­ing him to 35 per­cent. Mean­while, Cruz’s strongest states (those with high evan­gel­ic­al pop­u­la­tions and those hold­ing caucuses) are be­hind him, and he has struggled north of the Ma­son-Dix­on Line, where most of the re­main­ing primar­ies are.

Cruz’s cam­paign is plan­ning to make a late play for Flor­ida to knock Ru­bio out of the race and cre­ate a one-on-one show­down with Trump. But if Trump loses Flor­ida, it’s hard to see how any­one gets a ma­jor­ity of del­eg­ates after this week­end’s res­ults. Still, Cruz is in very good po­s­i­tion now. If there’s a con­tested con­ven­tion, Cruz may be the most un­usu­al of con­sensus can­did­ates—one who is loathed by the es­tab­lish­ment but viewed as the only Re­pub­lic­an who can keep the party from split­ting apart.

The article notes that an independent anti-Trump PAC is focusing on boosting Rubio in Florida and Illinois, but not Kasich:

By open­ing up a third front in del­eg­ate-rich Illinois, the anti-Trump forces are mak­ing a risky bet. On pa­per, Ru­bio is an ap­peal­ing can­did­ate to the deep swath of cen­ter-right Re­pub­lic­an voters in the Chica­go sub­urbs. With enough re­sources be­hind him, the Flor­ida sen­at­or could re­bound with wins in Flor­ida and Illinois, which would all but block Trump’s path to a ma­jor­ity. But if Ru­bio con­tin­ues to un­der­achieve and [John] Kasich comes just short in Ohio, those re­sources may have bet­ter been spent lock­ing down del­eg­ates in Ohio in­stead of open­ing new of­fens­ives.

The most interesting part of the piece is its analysis that Kasich may be well positioned to come out of a contested convention with the nomination:

If no GOP can­did­ate gets the 1,237 del­eg­ates to clinch the nom­in­a­tion, Kasich’s play for the nom­in­a­tion isn’t all that far-fetched. Con­sider: He’s the only Re­pub­lic­an left who hasn’t slammed Trump, his sup­port­ers over­lap with Trump’s blue-col­lar base, he’s the most-elect­able Re­pub­lic­an against Hil­lary Clin­ton, and he has a home-court ad­vant­age with the con­ven­tion in Clev­e­land. In ad­di­tion, his re­sume as big-state gov­ernor and con­gres­sion­al lead­er may not be a polit­ic­al as­set, but should lend him cred­ib­il­ity among the del­eg­ates in a pos­sible floor fight.

He’d prob­ably need to ex­per­i­ence some luck: win­ning Ohio, and hop­ing Trump flat­lines and Ru­bio doesn’t win Flor­ida. Un­der that scen­ario, he could rack up del­eg­ates at the back end of the pro­cess and emerge with late mo­mentum. Con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­ans would cry foul if Kasich emerged as a com­prom­ise pick, but a Kasich-Cruz tick­et could sat­is­fy both wings of the party.

A contested nomination has been speculated about for decades, ever since the last one (Ford getting the nod over Reagan in ’76). But Kraushaar just might be right that this year is the best chance in a long time for it to happen, and various pundits and analysts have been suggesting the possibility for several months now. If that happens, it’s likely there will be a significant number of GOP voters who walk away unhappy, and what that means for the general election wouldn’t be known until Election Day.