A Path to Nomination, Narrow as it is, Emerges for Trump

It is no longer a mission impossible, but he will need to thread the needle if he is to be the Republican who challenges the likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in November.

Published: 29th April 2016 09:46 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th April 2016 09:46 AM   |  A+A-


WASHINGTON: Donald Trump's path to victory in the Republican presidential nomination race, dismissed as inconceivable by many in the run up to the primaries, is actually appearing more credible, political experts said Thursday.

Can he secure the 1,237 delegates needed to prevail and avoid a chaotic contested convention?

It is no longer a mission impossible, but he will need to thread the needle if he is to be the Republican who challenges the likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in November.

Winner-take-all Indiana, which votes next on May 3, will be key. And California, the largest state in the union, which votes June 7 on the last day of Republican primaries, is absolutely crucial.

"If we win Indiana, it's over," a confident Trump, 69, told a rally in Evansville Thursday.

After the celebrity billionaire crushed his opposition by sweeping all five states that held primaries Tuesday, the nomination was increasingly being seen as Trump's to lose.

"I'm as optimistic about Trump's chances as at any point in the election cycle," wrote the influential statistician and election analyst Nate Silver on the political blog FiveThirtyEight.

The will-he-or-won't-he debate has focused on whether Trump can win a majority of the 2,472 Republican delegates who choose the nominee at the party's convention in July in Cleveland, Ohio.

Should he reach that magic number of 1,237, the nomination is his because delegates secured in statewide races are bound to vote for their candidate in the first round.

Trump acknowledged his energy is focused on winning on the first ballot. "We're not going for the second, the third, fourth and fifth," he said Sunday.

Perhaps with good reason.

His chief rival, conservative Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, has been running circles around Trump in wooing delegates ahead of the convention in the event there is no outright winner.

Cruz and third-place candidate John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, have plotted to deny Trump the majority by splitting some future races -- Kasich will not campaign in Indiana, while Cruz will bow out of Oregon and New Mexico.

With no candidate reaching 1,237, Cruz and Kasich hope to snatch the nomination from Trump in Cleveland.

But Trump has remained bullish: "I think we get that 1,237."

- Unbound delegates key -

The math may be formidable, but it is doable. Trump currently stands at 991 delegates, 80 percent of what he needs.

Ten of the 50 states have yet to vote, including Indiana and California.

Of the remaining 502 delegates up for grabs, Trump needs 49 percent. Essentially, if he maintains the same level of voter support in the remaining contests he has had so far, victory is assured.

Should the race shift in Cruz's favor, however, all bets are off.

"I think he can likely get to 1,237," Christine Barbour of Indiana University at Bloomington said of Trump, adding "I'd say they (Cruz and Kasich) are in for the duration and we won't know anything until California."

Simulations published by US media in recent days show Trump breaching the threshold to become the party standard-bearer.

A New York Times projection says Trump will probably secure as many as 1,289 delegates, including 154 of California's huge trove of 172 delegates.

But there is a scenario in which Trump no longer even needs Indiana.

Under the party's quirky rules, more than 100 Republican delegates are headed to the convention unbound; they can vote for any eligible candidate they choose.

Among them are 54 delegates from Pennsylvania, the large blue-collar state that voted Tuesday. Trump won it handily, securing the 17 bound delegates.

But he also snatched the vast majority of the 54 who are free to vote their preference, with ABC News reporting that 41 of them have committed to Trump.

That would give him some breathing room, perhaps enough to prevail even if Cruz wins Indiana.

Calvin Tucker, an uncommitted delegate elected from Pennsylvania's 2nd District, said he will continue to talk with businesspeople, civic leaders and the campaigns and candidates themselves before he makes his decision.

"I have two guiding principles, the last man standing and electability," he told AFP, adding that if Trump were close to the 1,237 threshold, it would be hard to oppose him.

"If he's 1236, absolutely," Tucker said. "If my vote is the deciding vote, yes I'm on board."


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