Realistically, could Trump lose the nomination?
April 6, 2016 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Few people doubt that Donald Trump will win a clear plurality of votes and pledged delegates. But many people are suggesting the possibility that, assuming Trump doesn't have a majority of pledged delegates on the first ballot, he could lose on a second ballot, due to his pledged delegates switching their vote to another candidate. But wouldn't they be scared to do so?

In such a scenario, how easy would it be for Trump's, shall we say, more dedicated supporters, to find the names of these delegates who switched their vote, and post them on Stormfront or somewhere, on a List of the People Who Stole The Nomination? If it's as easy as I expect, doesn't that make the delegates fearful of switching their vote, and therefore, Trump the inevitable nominee?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 to Law & Government (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Delegate intimidation is exactly what Trump supporter and political operative Roger Stone is threatening to do at the convention.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:43 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

It wouldn't just be Trump delegates who could switch on the second ballot, it would be the delegates won by Rubio, Kasich, and the like who could switch.

If Trump doesn't have a majority of delegates (1237),and if the power brokers get behind a single candidate, then Trump could lose even if all of his delegates stay loyal.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:44 AM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

538's election podcast suggested Trump may not quite reach the 1237 delegates needed.

The rules of the Republican Convention are defined by the party itself. The rules committee can change the rules during the convention if they want. They changed rules during the 2012 convention.

Also, different states have different rules on exactly how "bound" a given delegate is to their candidate. Delegates do have freedom to switch candidates in some states.

Your second paragraph is speculation and obviously can't be confirmed or denied.
posted by LoveHam at 8:48 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Are the votes of individual named delegates to the convention publicly known, or not?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:50 AM on April 6, 2016

There's nothing secret about the convention ballots. The delegations from each state will publicly announce their counts, although I don't know if they give a breakdown every time as to which delegate voted which way. But it's a very public process, out in the open on the convention floor, not a secret ballot.
posted by dis_integration at 9:00 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Realistically Trump could lose the nomination.

Are the votes of individual named delegates to the convention publicly known, or not?

That is an interesting question. Rule 37 describes the process for the Roll Call at the Republican Convention. Results are announced publically by state unless one of the state's delegates objects and then is done by individual delegate. Although the release of the information wouldn't be required since it is a private organization, I can't imagine the information being completely inaccessible.

As to whether delegates would feel personally threatened, it's possible, though I would guess unlikely. Were I a republican convention delegate that would not be a concern for me. It's an unanswerable question though.
posted by Across the pale parabola of joy at 9:14 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Influences on unbound delegates that I think would be stronger than a fear of personal intimidation include: an attempt to choose the person they think would be the best President, an attempt to choose the strongest candidate in the general election, a desire to reflect the will of their state's primary voters despite personal opinions, and sacks with dollar signs on them.
posted by Across the pale parabola of joy at 9:22 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Trump is not a party insider, most delegates probably want a future within the party, so falling in line behind what the GOP wants after the obligation of the first ballot is not a bad move politically. I think this is what most observers believe will happen to prevent a Trump nomination.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:40 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

After the first ballot, a delegate will vote for whomever promises/pays them the most.
posted by AugustWest at 9:41 AM on April 6, 2016

I personally think the whole idea that delegates will be physically intimidated into voting for Trump on later ballots is way overblown.

Could Trump win a plurality of votes and lose the nomination? Sure, it's happened before:
In the 1952 presidential election, Kefauver ran for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Campaigning in his coonskin cap, often by dogsled, Kefauver won in an electrifying victory in the New Hampshire primary, defeating President Harry S. Truman, the sitting President of the United States. Truman then withdrew his bid for re-election.

Kefauver won 12 of the 15 primaries in 1952, losing three to "favorite son" candidates. He received 3.1 million votes, while the eventual 1952 Democratic presidential nominee, Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson, got only 78,000 votes. But primaries were not, at that time, the main method of delegate selection for the national convention. Kefauver entered the convention with a few hundred votes still needed for a majority of the delegates.

The Kefauver campaign became the classic example of how presidential primary victories do not automatically lead to the nomination itself."[6] Although he began the balloting far ahead of the other declared candidates, Kefauver eventually lost the nomination to Stevenson, the choice of the Democratic Party political bosses. Stevenson, a one-term governor who was up for reelection in 1952, had resisted calls to enter the race, but he was nominated anyway by a "Draft Stevenson" movement that had been energized by his eloquent keynote speech on the opening night of the convention. John Sparkman was selected as the Democratic candidate for Vice President.
posted by General Malaise at 9:49 AM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

Trump has been polling well in the primaries, but the funny thing about primary election poll data is that it doesn't predict the outcome of the general election very well. Only something like 20% of registered voters who will actually turn out for the general election also vote during the primaries. That means that 80% of people who WILL vote in the general election have not been polled... at all. With numbers like that, you'd think our media would lay off on the primaries being A Big Deal, but they make good news. Of course, delegates know this and want someone who will win the general election which, in our political climate, means wooing independents and some amount of Democrats away from the opposing candidate. So it's conceivable that the delegates would vote for someone with more centrist tendencies as a strategy to win the election. Contrary to appearances, Republicans aren't all extreme ideologues, and the party does want to actually win.
posted by deathpanels at 9:52 AM on April 6, 2016

Recent articles by Ross Douthat and Josh Marshall get into some of the details.

The short answer is that in most cases, "Trump" delegates are chosen by party leadership in the various states, and are quite likely to be (more or less) establishment Republicans themselves. They are not chosen by Trump and not necessarily, personally, died-in-the-wool Trump supporters. They are bound to vote for their person (Trump or whoever) on the first ballot, but after they they are not bound. So a vast majority of "Trump delegates" might actually personally favor Cruz or some other candidate.

And after the first ballot, Trump delegates--and also Rubio, Kasich, and delegates from all other candidates--will be allowed to vote however they like. So a guy like Cruz just needs to cobble together 50% of delegates from within his own delegates, a few percent of Trump delegates, and most Rubio delegates, most Kasich delegates, etc. If, for example, Cruz comes into the convention with 40% of delegates and Trump with 43% the proposition of Cruz augmenting his 40% up to 50% is not that daunting.

On the other hand, Trump augmenting his 43% to 50% is going to be an uphill battle. He probably won't even be able to depend on all of HIS OWN delegates in the second round, and he probably won't be able to pick up many extra delegates from the Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, etc pool.

It's exactly this type of dynamic that makes it harder (not impossible, but harder) for an outsider like Trump to win the party nomination.
posted by flug at 11:09 AM on April 6, 2016

I think bribery is more likely than intimidation when currying freed delegate loyalty.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 11:13 AM on April 6, 2016

Regarding the "rule 37" above (assuming the rules committee does not change this rule) would that mean that each state would need only one Drumpf delegate to request individual, not state level, roll calls thereby ensuring that non conforming delegates could be outed/made publicly visible?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:34 PM on April 6, 2016

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