John Kasich is out on the campaign trail telling everyone who will listen that no one is going to reach 1,237 delegates on the first ballot, and we are all headed to a contested convention no matter what. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is out there telling everyone who will listen that John Kasich is the only thing keeping him from reaching 1,237.
Both are selling lies to Republican voters. In Kasich’s case, that’s probably because his campaign is run by John Weaver, who is just fine with Democrats winning.
The reason Kasich is likely to throw the race to Trump has mostly to do with the way two states allocate their delegates – Indiana and California.
Let’s look at the math. Donald Trump is right now at 845 delegates. If you include just the pledged delegates from Tuesday, Trump is likely to walk away with at least 100 of those. That puts him at right around 950, even if you assume he will get zero of the non-pledged delegates in Pennsylvania. More on that later.
If the polling in Indiana is even slightly accurate, the presence of John Kasich in the race means that Trump will likely win close to 50 delegates in Indiana (as opposed to the 6-9 delegates he would likely get if John Kasich were not in the race), as I broke down yesterday. That puts Trump at almost exactly 1,000 heading down the home stretch of the campaign.
From that point on, there’s a lot of uncertainty n the calendar, but even painting a rosy scenario for the non-Trump forces, it looks like Trump will get 1,237 if Kasich does not drop out. Let’s assume that Cruz will sweep Nebraska, which is the most likely result. Extrapolating from the vote in western Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, it must be assumed that Trump will get at least an additional 15 delegates from WV. That puts him at 1,015.
Washington and Oregon are total mysteries in terms of polling right now, but both award on a modified proportional basis. Even if Cruz (and Kasich) do very well there, Trump will almost definitely walk out with an additional 25-30 delegates from those two states. That’s 1,045. It would be foolhardy to assume that anything happens in New Jersey other than a Trump sweep at this point – mark him down for 1,096.
We’re making this a rosy scenario for the Cruz/Kasich forces here, so let’s put down South Dakota and Montana as Ted Cruz sweeps. Even if Cruz wins New Mexico handily, Trump will get an additional 5 delegates at least from the proportional vote, bringing him to 1,100 with California yet to go.
Here’s where Kasich really throws the election to Trump. California is winner-take-all by Congressional district, with each district bringing three delegates with it. Polling right now shows Trump with a 7-8 point lead. That’s not a big lead, and there are some regional differences in the poll, but it’s enough of a lead that you should expect Trump to get about 70% of the delegates nonetheless. An extremely low estimate would put him at getting 100 of the 172 delegates from California.
So now you have Trump sitting at 1,200 delegates. This is under the best case scenario. But we haven’t awarded any of the non-pledged delegates from Pennsylvania, not to mention American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands, or any of the various unpledged delegates (of which there are a handful in virtually every state) from around the country. The idea that Trump could not get 37 of these on board in a scenario where he is less than 50 delegates away from sewing up the nomination and preventing the mess of a contested convention altogether just beggars the imagination.
The one and only way Trump is stopped from reaching 1,237 is if John Kasich suspends his campaign, almost immediately – hopefully before Indiana but definitely before California. Even if you assume that his current support splits for Cruz only 60/40 (an extremely generous assumption to Trump), then Trump loses about 50 delegates from Indiana and probably another 40 from California, and there you have your contested convention. Otherwise, the delegate allocation format will allow Trump to cruise to victory even if he just continues to get his standard 35-40% total going forward.
Even now as I write this post, both the Cruz and Kasich camps have recognized the importance of Indiana in particular, as Cruz and Kasich have basically cut an unprecedented deal in which Kasich will “give” Cruz Indiana in exchange for New Mexico and Oregon. However, with Kasich on the ballot, this will likely not be enough; but it’s probably the only option that Cruz had, in dealing with the recalcitrant and insane Kasich. It’s a start, but it isn’t enough.
Trump is saying the opposite of this because he views Kasich as not very bright and he’s using reverse psychology. Either that or he does not understand math – and given his behavior in this campaign, that is equally likely. Kasich is saying the opposite of this because neither he nor John Weaver really care if Trump gets the nomination and a Democrat wins in November; all that matters is their own personal aggrandizement.
If you care about the country, on the other hand, you want John Kasich to drop out of this race immediately.