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Can Trump reach 1,237 before Cleveland?

By Steve Vassallo

Every political pundit across the nation is now asking this question: What is the possibility of a brokered/contested Republican convention?

The magic number is 1,237 delegates.

We will attempt to solve this puzzle with the knowledge at hand. There are a number of variables and with 19 states left to decide plus a few islands, only two possibilities remain.

Starting with the GOP frontrunner, Donald J. Trump, the path to nomination is by far the easiest, but not in stone. Currently, Trump has 739 delegates, which is 498 short of the golden egg. Based on current polling, the estimated delegate haul for Trump in the remaining contests is about 439 according to RealClear Politics. If this estimate is close to accurate, Trump would still be 59 delegates shy of the nomination. However, there are additional factors impacting the final count.

For example, Marco Rubio has 166 delegates pledged even though he has suspended his campaign. Where these delegates end up is anyone’s guess. Also, Pennsylvania has an unusual primary in which 54 delegates are selected (three per Congressional District) by their own standing. In other words, these delegates are basically free agents with no guarantee they will follow the wishes of the electorate. And if these two blocks are not confusing the issue enough, there is another block of 69 delegates from various states and islands that are presently unbound. If you add these three groups together, the total is another 289 available delegates. Trump would then need only 20.4 percent of these delegates to lock up the nomination.

There is another variable or intangible playing into this equation. Six weeks would remain between the California primary (June 7) and the start of the convention in Cleveland.

During this time candidates can interact with delegates, making deals and promises that would be anything but unusual in the history of Republican politics. Trump’s greatest strength is deal making (he authored “The Art of the Deal”) and he is a pro at it. In addition, his celebrity status and ability to offer packages at Trump properties would all be inviting to some delegates.

The negotiations that occurred leading up to the 1976 convention by then-President Gerald Ford are legendary in his attempt to head off prime challenger, Ronald Reagan. The end result — it worked.

Ted Cruz has an almost impossible task to get to 1,237 delegates. With only 465 presently, he still needs 772 to get the nomination. And with the vast majority of the remaining states favorable to Trump (such as New York, New Jersey and West Virginia among others), the chances of getting there are slim and none, which leaves only one remaining possibility … a contested/brokered convention.

Should Trump not lock up 1,237 delegates prior to the July convention in Cleveland, all bets are off as to what will transpire. We would basically be in unchartered waters. However, if Trump is close to the magic number and has accumulated the highest number of votes, denying him and his legions the nomination could be suicidal for the party. With each passing primary, the predictability of the outcome will become more clear. With Wisconsin on the horizon in just two days, time will tell. Should Trump prevail, the next primary on April 19 (New York with its 95 delegates) will give him a significant home court advantage.

Stopping the Trump train in April is a far more difficult task than it would have been in February.

In some respects the cow is now out of the barn. Attempting to get him back in may be more problematic than the Republican establishment ever bargained for.

Steve Vassallo is a contributing columnist and Oxford resident. He can be reached at sovassallo@gmail.com.