The rise of Donald Trump has offered many “teachable moments” for us. Another moment for many voters will soon emerge and that is: Voters only play a very small role in nominating presidential candidates.
As uber-political wonks understand (I only consider myself a political wonk, so I may get a fine point or two wrong without spending hours searching Google), the % of primary votes a candidate gets in a particular Congressional District, dictates the % of party delegates the candidate gets to send to the convention. So if MA Congressional District X is allocated 10 delegates and Trump got 49% of the vote in that Congressional District, then Trump is awarded 5 of those delegates.
That’s pretty straight forward, but of course it is not. Exactly WHO those five delegates are is determined by another vote of a caucus of registered GOP voters in that Congressional District. The GOP caucus elections are scheduled for April 30th in Massachusetts. And that is where things get interesting, as Politico reported yesterday:
Perhaps the most glaring warning sign for Trump is the looming battle for delegates in Massachusetts. Trump scored 49 percent of the vote there, 31 points ahead of second-place Kasich. Cruz finished a distant fourth with 9.6 percent. Yet, it’s Cruz who seems to have the momentum as the state GOP prepares to hold congressional district conventions and a state party meeting that will elect 39 national delegates.
“The Trump campaign hasn’t really gotten out of first gear, but the Cruz campaign is starting to accelerate,” said Brad Wyatt, a longtime party activist who’s not aligned with either the Cruz or Trump camps. Another top Massachusetts Republican, speaking on condition of anonymity said that at best, Trump will find himself in a dogfight for delegates in the state, despite his dominance in the polls.
So as you read this, the Cruz campaign is recruiting “Trump delegates” who will be elected and be obligated to vote for Trump on ONLY the first ballot of the convention. If Trump has not reached the magic number of 1,237 delegates, those MA “Trump delegates” get to vote for whoever they want. If the Cruz (and Kasich) people do their job between now and April 30th, they will be Cruz (or Kasich) votes on a second ballot.
In the rough and tumble world of politics, the Trump campaign (and, gasp, The Donald himself) will only have themselves to blame. These are the rules of the game and you have to play by those rules. Of course the vain and self-centered Trump will profess to be the victim, which will only throw gas onto his already volatile base.
Which brings us to the most unfortunate of consequences, the outrage of people–including everyday Democrats and moderates–who do not grasp the arcane process that exists. Most people understandably assume (because the media has never taken the time to educate their audience) that the primary dictated how the nominating process plays out. But it doesn’t and when Americans see that months of voting didn’t amount to a hill of beans, they will become even more disillusioned with our political process.
As a footnote, I got an email this morning from the Trump MA campaign asking me to sign up to attend am April 30th caucus to support a realdonaldtrump delegate.