Donald Trump may have dominated the GOP’s Super Tuesday primaries, but he hasn’t yet guaranteed his foothold on the party’s ticket.
After all, he only has one quarter of the 1,237 delegates needed to land the nomination.
That means the Republican establishment still has a shot at derailing the Trump track, says Hoover Institution fellow Bill Whalen.
The prevailing strategy has been to consolidate the GOP field, forcing Trump to go head-to-head with either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, but Whalen says that approach could backfire.
“If one of those two drop out, their votes are going to split, and some will go to Trump,” he said.
In fact, a recent NBC News/Survey Monkey poll posed hypothetical primary races between Trump and Rubio, and Trump and Cruz.
Trump beat Rubio by an 8 percent margin. He beat Cruz by a 13 percent margin.
“So the narrative of Trump loses in a head-to-head to either of those two doesn’t necessarily pan out,” Whalen said.
The only option, then, is for both candidates to work to block Trump from reaching the 1,237 delegate count, Whalen added.
And that could prove a challenge. Upcoming primaries, like the Florida and Ohio votes on March 15 and the New Jersey vote on June 7, are winner take all states.
If Trump delivers a clean sweep in those states, it’s game over.
Whalen says the reality is, Rubio or Cruz will need carry a winner-take-all primary race if they want keep Trump at 30 to 40 percent of the delegate count before the party’s convention in Cleveland this summer.
If Trump does not have the 1,237 delegate votes in Cleveland in July, it could force a brokered convention, in which delegates would vote in several rounds.
Some pledged delegates, those bound to vote based on the popular vote in his or her state, are able to change votes after the first or second round.
Multiple rounds could open the doors for the GOP establishment to convince some of those delegates to swing away from Trump toward a candidate of the party’s choosing.