Donald Trump, the GOP’s presidential front-runner, needs a lesson in party rules. He seems to think that if he repeatedly insists that he should win the nomination if he ends up with the most delegates among the remaining contenders, it will be true.
But that’s where his political inexperience is showing. The Republican Party’s nomination process just doesn’t work like that, and saying otherwise a thousand times won’t make it so. Threatening that there will be riots won’t help him either (we hope).
In order to win the GOP nomination, Trump needs a majority of the delegates -- that means 50 percent plus one -- not just “the most” delegates. (That's also how it works with the Democratic Party.)
The Republicans’ nomination rulebook states quite clearly, “There are 2,472 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention. Therefore, 1,237 delegates are currently required to secure the Republican nomination for President of the United States outright.”
If a candidate secures those 1,237 delegates through the primary and caucus process that occurs in the states prior to the convention, great! That person becomes the presumptive nominee -- meaning that it’s assumed that person will receive the majority vote of the delegates at the convention on the first ballot. The delegates still vote, but the convention is mostly a coronation.
What Trump is describing in his statements is a situation in which no candidate gets to the 1,237 threshold through the earlier state-by-state processes. That’s a real possibility this year. What happens at that point gets complicated, but the party rules are clear on the need for a majority of the delegates:
“If no candidate shall have received such majority, the chairman of the convention shall direct the roll of the states be called again and shall repeat the calling of the roll until a candidate shall have received a majority of the votes entitled to be cast in the convention.”
They vote again and again until someone gets a majority.
If Trump doesn’t have a majority going into the convention, he will have to try to sway additional delegates to support him. Many delegates become “unbound,” or free, from their candidates after the first vote. So that means Trump could try to pick up other candidates’ delegates, but other candidates will be doing the same with his delegates. And that's fair, despite what Trump is suggesting.
GOP history does not oblige delegates to clear the path for any front-runner, either. In 1920 and 1940, Republicans chose "dark horses," i.e., nominees who weren't even among the leading candidates going into the convention. A rule adopted in 2012 likely means the 2016 convention won't be that exciting: It requires that any candidate for the nomination must have the support of a majority of delegates from at least eight states. But it's unclear how this provision would work in a contested convention.
So no, it’s not enough to have more delegates than anyone else. The rules say the nominee has to win the majority. Only tyrants trample the rules, Mr. Trump.
Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist