Trump likely won’t go to the convention with a majority of the delegates.
We’re looking at final counts something like:
- Trump 1200
- Cruz 800
- Kasich 300
- Rubio 170
But will the convention divert the nomination from Trump if he’s really close? And how close does he have to be? It probably matters as much how close Cruz can get to Trump. If Cruz can get closer to Trump than Trump is to a majority, it will be much easier to make a case that the primary process resulted in a vague result, and the convention is thus empowered to make a choice.
But if Trump can see the finish line, and Cruz can barely make out what looks like Trump’s hair over the horizon? Much tougher case to make.
Cruz needs to actually scramble to make it more like:
- Trump 1060
- Cruz 960
- Kasich 280
- Rubio 170
The closer Cruz can make it, the better the case.
But even if they can make the case, the convention is likely to be messy. Unless Trump goes in with the majority, the convention will be an old-school battle of blocks of troops marching at one another in an open field. The Crucians will make a volley, the Trumpites will block and advance. There will be flanking maneuvers and drummer boys keeping the cadence.
In practical terms that means credential checks, rule squabbles, vote wrangling, backroom bridge deals to nowhere, favors for favors.
And that’s in both scenarios above. The only clean convention is one where Trump is nominated on the first ballot because he has a majority of delegates.
In Scenario A, Trump has more leverage. It will probably still be a mess, but it may be a clean mess. Trump may be able to use his lead to force things through in a semi-orderly fashion.
But in Scenario B, even though Trump has more leverage alone, Cruz, et al., can gang up on him. Expect them to do so.
The delegate loyalty question is real, but so is the public perception of what goes down. What do you do with 30% of the Republican Party in open revolt? It would be almost as bad as Trump taking the prize, surely. So the coalition (Cruz and the others) have to try to find a way to block Trump while making it look like it was a fair deal to as many of the Trump voters as possible.
That probably means they will come up with some sacrifices of their own to allow. Let some of their own delegates be unseated, let things get messy in a way they can manage. Let the average delegate think things are FUBAR.
The convention will have a lot of WWE-style fake backstabbing and mudslinging. Problem is, Trump actually participated in WWE. He knows what fake chaos looks like, how it moves. He also knows how little it takes to turn fake chaos into the real deal.