How Will The GOP Respond If Trump Wins The Nomination?

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Answers by Patrick Ruffini, Partner at Echelon Insights & Founder/Chairman at Engage; Ran Digital at RNC, on Quora.

A: It is very likely that Republican Senate candidates running in blue states will actively work to distance themselves from Donald Trump, either by stating that they won't vote for Donald Trump or denouncing some of his more extreme statements. I am open minded on the question of how damaging Trump will be to downballot candidates if he is the nominee. I think people understand that he is his own entity, and that he isn't the choice of other Republicans running for office (in fact, his distance from the Republican establishment is a core part of his appeal). If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the nominees, both would enter the general election with record high unfavorable ratings. Many Republican candidates would abandon Trump and argue that they serve as a necessary check on Hillary Clinton, who is unloved by the general electorate.


A: The answer will be a lot clearer after March 15th, when states can begin allocating delegates on a winner take all basis, and candidates can begin racking up delegates much faster than they have so far. A group of GOP analytics consultants I'm a part of has been modeling different outcomes, and we'll be sharing the results of that analysis soon. In my mind, a brokered convention is still a very real possibility (around a 50% likelihood) and the odds of it go up considerably if Trump fails to win both Ohio and Florida.

Even if he wins Ohio and Florida, a brokered convention remains a distinct possibility. If this happens, it is likely that John Kasich and Marco Rubio are out of the race, and the race becomes Trump vs. Cruz. Trump won Michigan by 12 points but the exit polls had him losing to Cruz in a head to head matchup by 9 points. Many states west of the Mississippi still need to vote, and multi-state polling aggregates, digital data, and results to date have been consistent about Trump performing worse in the Midwest and the West than he does in the South and the Northeast. This is favorable ground for Ted Cruz in a two-person race. Trump also performs worse in primaries where only Republicans can vote, and the majority of delegates from here on out (52%) will be awarded in closed primaries (vs. a handful that have been awarded that way to date).


A: The answer is: It's complicated. The rules differ from state to state, but in most cases, Republican delegates are chosen independently of the Presidential preference vote in a state, and are thus not necessarily supporters of the candidate. (On the Democratic side, candidates choose their delegates.) A delegate can be anyone from a party leader (a Governor, U.S. Senator, Member of Congress, or Republican National Committee member), to a party activist elected at a state party convention.

Delegates are bound to a candidate according to the delegate allocation rules for the state. For instance, in Florida and Ohio, all delegates are bound to the plurality winner of the primary on the first ballot. If Donald Trump wins these primaries, these delegates (many of whom are likely to be Marco Rubio or John Kasich loyalists) are bound to Trump, but can vote for whomever they like on a second ballot.

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