All these different scenarios complicate deriving a predictive model for the upcoming primary battles. With that in mind, I’ve decided to limit permutations to four: (1) closed proportional, (2) open proportional, (3) closed winner-take-all, and (4) open winner-take-all. These categories give a suitable platform for projecting the nomination race with an eye on getting to the convention without having already selected Trump as the nominee. They also include assumptions based on the results in the books as of Super Saturday. Donald Trump has enjoyed more success in open states and less success in Republican-only contests. Therefore, my model predicts him to win a higher percentage in open primaries and caucuses going forward. It also assumes, based on current polling, that he’ll win Florida and Ohio – both winner-take-all states. Before I get into the model’s predictions, here is a recap of where we stand now: Donald Trump has won 41.1% of the delegates awarded so far. His 391 delegates leaves him 846 short of the 1,237 delegates he’d need for the majority. Other candidates have captured 510 delegates and 51 are uncommitted. To get to 1,237 delegates, Trump needs to win 55.7% of outstanding delegates. With these figures in mind, here is one way the Republican nomination might play out between now and July.
Starting Trump Delegates: 391 Open Proportional Contests: Assume Trump wins 60% of the delegates
It’s clear that Trump has seen more success in open primaries and caucuses. So far, he’s won 47.1% of delegates awarded in this category. Since Ted Cruz’s home state of Texas and its mountain of delegates fit into this category, Trump’s portion of these delegates is smaller than it otherwise would be. Therefore, I’m raising Trump’s expected portion of these delegates to 60%. This metric gives him an additional 114 delegates from Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina and Rhode Island.
Trump Delegates: 505 Closed Proportional Contests: Assume Trump wins 40% of the delegates
Closed states have been more problematic for Trump. He did win in Nevada, Kentucky and Louisiana, but his proportion of the delegates in this category has been just 34.6%. Let’s give him 40% for the sake of argument – and because his home state of New York is a closed semi-proportional state in which he could win an over-sized chunk of delegates. Give him 132 delegates from states like Connecticut, Idaho, Utah, New York, Oregon and Washington.
Trump Delegates: 637 Open Winner-take-all Contests: Assume Trump wins all these contests (including Ohio).
One assertion I made in my last 2016 Election Update video is that Trump can be stopped from getting a majority even if he wins Florida and Ohio. This runs contrary to conventional wisdom, but it doesn’t contradict feasible reality. This category earns Trump 313 delegates from Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and Montana.
Update: Most “winner-take-all” states actually employ variations to the pure winner-take-all method. For the sake of the scenario I build in this example, I am ignoring those variations. However, it is possible that they will introduce significant changes to delegate allocations from state to state that may help or hinder Trump’s chance to get to a majority. Also, the Virgin Islands’ delegates were previously added to this category by mistake. The nine VI delegates are not committed. I’ve updated the numbers to correct this error.
Trump Delegates: 950 Closed Winner-take-all Contests: Assume Trump wins Florida. Calculate what he must lose of the rest to stay under the number of delegates needed for the majority (1,237).
With Florida in his delegate bank, Trump’s predicted count stands at 1039 with 579 delegates left to divide. Once we get here, Trump needs 198, or just 34.2%, of those 579 outstanding delegates. The remaining winner-take-all states are Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Dakota and, the big one, California. I’ll say right if that if Trump wins California after carrying both Florida and Ohio, the nomination is all but his. But if he doesn’t, then it is not that difficult to paint a path for Trump that comes up short of the majority. There are several scenarios that give Trump less than 1,237 delegates, but I’ll settle on one to complete my initial premise. If Trump doesn’t win Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, California, and South Dakota, he’ll get 213 delegates from this category (including Florida’s 99).
Final Trump Delegates: 1,163 There you have it. If this scenario plays out, Trump will end up 65 delegates short of the majority and we’ll be looking at a contested GOP convention. It might seem strange to say this considering how unbeatable Donald Trump has often appeared over the last few weeks, but I believe Trump needs to win both Florida and Ohio to avoid having June 7 come in as a make or break day in his quest for a pre-convention majority. To be sure, he could win California and make all this moot. Or, he could go to the convention without the majority and amass enough unpledged delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot. Or, he could get there on a subsequent ballot. I say all this to illustrate that these calculations are not intended to block his path to the nomination. They are simply to show how possible it is for him to get to the convention without having already secured it. For someone who would want just about any Republican besides him to vote for in November, that prospect is very encouraging.