Professor: Contested GOP convention possible, but “unlikely”

Staff report

The Ohio State University at Newark Associate Professor of Political Science Nathaniel Swigger, Ph.D., says a contested Republican National Convention scenario is possible, but unlikely. Donald Trump won pivotal primaries in yesterday’s (March 15) elections. Swigger researches American politics with an emphasis on public opinion polling, political psychology, campaigns and elections, and media analysis.

“Donald Trump continues to move closer and closer to the nomination,” says Swigger. “At this point, no other GOP candidate has a realistic chance of amassing a majority of delegates. Yes, John Kasich won Ohio yesterday. This was a necessary step for his continued survival. It is not enough, however. Kasich’s hopes rest on a contested convention and that scenario remains unlikely.”

Trump won the key state of Florida yesterday and its 99 delegates, as well as contests in Illinois and North Carolina.

“Trump will likely have a majority or plurality of delegates heading into the convention. Giving the nomination to anyone else at that point would be an enormous risk for the GOP,” says Swigger. “They would be undermining the entire primary process and subverting the will of Republican voters. They will probably give Trump the nomination, if he has the most delegates, unless Kasich can meet two criteria. First, Kasich would have to do well enough in the remaining primaries, beating Trump often enough that the establishment could make a reasonable argument the candidate has some kind of popular support and mandate from the voters. Kasich needs to not only win his home state, but show that he can beat Trump in Pennsylvania, New York, California and enough of the remaining contests took like a legitimate challenger. Second, the party would have to believe that the non-Trump candidate can win in November.”

Swigger says it is unlikely that the GOP will block Trump and nominate Ted Cruz because Cruz doesn’t appear to be a strong general election candidate. Swigger thinks nominating anyone but Trump risks a brutal backlash from Republican voters, one that could impact GOP officeholders nationwide for years to come.

However, Senator Marco Rubio ended his campaign after the results were tallied yesterday, and that could also impact the convention.

“Rubio has won a significant number of delegates, and rules vary from state to state as to what happens to those delegates. Some states allow pledged delegates to become ‘free agents’ once their candidate drops out. Some states reallocate delegates to other candidates, and some require the pledged delegates to vote for a candidate even if that candidate is no longer in the race,” says Swigger. “In the event of a contested convention, there will be a tremendous effort spent wrangling over individual delegates.”

On the Democratic side, Swigger says Bernie Sanders’ win in Michigan last week suddenly seems like a very long time ago.

“As interesting as his campaign has been, and as much as he has contributed to the tone of the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton is just too strong. At this point Sanders would need to not only win, but suddenly rack up overwhelming margins in his victories in order to displace Clinton as the nominee. That is not very likely to happen. And, barring something truly dramatic, the nomination belongs to Clinton,” says Swigger.

Staff report