Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin this week, halting the runaway momentum of The Donald, at least for now. Trump is still reasonably ahead in terms of delegates – the question that looms into view now is what happens if he is unable to wrap up the nomination prior to the Republican Convention in July.
If Trump gets over the line, then this worry becomes academic – Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for the presidency in the election. However, the numbers are worth a look. Trump needs 1,237 delegates in total and he currently has 740 to Cruz’s 514. So Trump needs 497 more with only 888 left in play prior to the convention – which means he need to win 56% of the delegates remaining. This is completely doable, but Wisconsin showed it’s not in the bag, not by a long way. And if Trump falls short, then it throws up interesting possibilities.
It’s no secret that the Republican higher guard don’t like Donald Trump. There are many reasons for this, but the two biggies are that he’s a). a guy who will almost certainly crack under the glare of a presidential campaign and say something he cannot simply shrug off and b). he spent a long time in Democrat circles and they feel he isn’t really one of them. So if Trump doesn’t get the full 1,237 he needs prior to July, it goes to convention where a vote of the delegates moves to the floor. Should this happen, it is very likely that Cruz will get the nomination ahead of Trump.
Having come that close and been denied, Trump isn’t likely to give in easily. He will cry “establishment stitch up” (he’s already gearing up for this, calling certain already fought contests he didn’t win unfair, such as the one in Louisiana) and rile up the people who voted for him in the primaries. The immediate loser in this will be the Republican Party (who will struggle to win the presidency with an already not terrifically popular Cruz along side Donald Trump all over the media slagging off Cruz). But there could be a much deeper and worse result in all of this.
Think of the anti-politics vibe Trump has been able to ride on – that won’t simply dissipate just because Trump didn’t get the nomination. In fact, it will almost certainly get a whole lot worse as a result. In a way, the Republicans could be setting themselves up to, in a bizarre sense, prove Trump’s rhetoric about establishment politics correct. If Trump wins the most delegates pre-convention but not enough for the nomination and is then denied on the convention floor, the anti-politics thing on the right of American politics will go into overdrive. And that could have some very, very ugly results, ones I shudder in even trying to forecast. I’ll let your imagination run wild.
So what should the Republicans do if Trump falls just short? Let him have it. They’ve already lost this election, so they are better off taking the hit on Trump and letting it be shown that his shtick was never going to be enough to get a majority of Americans to vote for it. Let him be crucified and then move on. By picking Cruz in July, they’ll only be prolonging their own – and in this case, everyone else’s – misery by attempting to avoid Trump’s now seemingly necessary face off with the whole American electorate. As it is everywhere in the western world at the moment: anti-politics has to be allowed to play out to its logical end.