How would a contested GOP convention work?

Republican National Convention delegates could could end up having a personal say in the election for the first time since 1952.

Steve Nesius/Reuters
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to a question during a campaign rally at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida on Monday.

Republican National Convention (RNC) delegates are looking ahead to the July assembly and the possibility of wielding more influence they have in decades.

While Donald Trump remains in the lead in the Republican presidential primary with 673 delegates, he is still only slightly more than halfway to the 1,237 needed to secure the nomination before the convention this summer. States with high delegate counts like New York, Pennsylvania, and California still remain to be decided in the coming months, but if Mr. Trump fails to add 564 or more delegates through June, then the July convention could become a fight between Trump and fellow candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.

If the GOP nomination decision comes to that, delegates could end up having a personal say in the election for the first time since 1952. In the event that Trump does not cross the delegate threshold in time for the RNC in Cleveland, the convention process involves the 2,472 delegates from around the country voting for candidates until one has collected the 1,237 needed to win.

The first round of voting would bind 95 percent of the delegates to the candidates for which their states’ voters tied them to. But if that tally yields no majority nominee choice then another round would free up the voting process. A second round of balloting would bind only 43 percent of the delegates to a candidate and could open the door for a major shift in the party, if delegates feel one candidate has a stronger chance.

Illinois delegate Mark Strang is a supporter of Senator Cruz, and is bound to him at the RNC. But if voting opened up, there is a possibility Mr. Strang would shift his vote to another.

“I am going to be loyal to Ted Cruz, and I will stick with him until I see if there’s no hope,” Strang told Reuters. “And if there’s no hope for Ted getting in, as I understand it I can pledge my votes to somebody else, and I would hope Ted would understand.”

States’ delegates are found in several different ways, with each state’s party chair and two representatives from the national committee compulsorily selected. After that, votes, conventions, and more pick the party members who could have a major say in this race.

“These are the base of the party,” Michigan’s Republican Party chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel told Reuters. “The delegates are not the establishment. They are the base. And I think that’s a great misunderstanding.”

While many delegates have openly stated that they would not switch candidates through the convention process, it is possible that an internal shift in the GOP could open the door for Cruz and Mr. Kasich to make a run at stopping Trump’s surprising ascent despite their delegate counts heading into July. 

Material from Reuters was used in this report.

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