Can Trump Still Avoid a Contested Convention?

Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

After Donald Trump’s recent losses in Wisconsin and Colorado, there has been increasing talk of a contested GOP convention in Cleveland and how such a scenario would play out.

However, such talk is still premature. Trump still has a difficult, but not impossible, road to reach the 1,237 delegates necessary to win on the convention’s first ballot. As Jon pointed out earlier, a big win in the New York primary next Tuesday (which is looking quite possible) would greatly improve those odds.

Once voting concludes in the Empire State, the race then moves to a handful of east coast states the following week, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Rhode Island. However, the most important for Trump’s chances might be Pennsylvania with its 71 delegates, though not for the reasons one might expect.

NBC News’ Steve Kornacki explains:

Officially, only 17 delegates are directly at stake in that contest. They will go to the winner of the primary statewide. The other 54 are unbound delegates. They will run under their own names on the ballot, and if they are selected as delegates they will be free agents in Cleveland, free to vote for any candidate they want. Because Cruz has done well with unbound delegates in other states (like Colorado and North Dakota, where there was a premium on organizing), many are assuming that Pennsylvania’s unbound delegate bloc will be a problem area for Trump. It actually could be a major source of strength for him.

Here’s what we know. 162 Republicans are running for the 54 unbound slots in Pennsylvania, and 127 of them – so far – have replied to a survey from the Pittsburgh Tribune review. More than half of them are now saying that if elected as delegates they will simply vote for the candidate who wins their district. Another 20 say they’ll vote for Trump and 13 more say they are uncommitted (with several of them indicating that the results in their district will factor into their decision). Only 20 unbound delegate candidates in Pennsylvania now say they’d back Cruz, and only one is leaning toward Kasich.

Then there’s this: A new poll shows Trump winning Pennsylvania overwhelmingly, 48 percent, to 22 for Kasich and 20 for Cruz. If that holds, then the pressure to keep their word will be intense on those unbound delegates who are now pledging to honor the will of the voters. True, they could technically change their minds and join a movement to stop Trump anyway. But remember, many of these delegate candidates are party leaders who will have to deal with their district’s Republican voters long after this primary is over. If they are now pledging to honor the will of those voters and those voters then turn around and back Trump by a wide margin, there’d be serious blowback potential for any delegate who then reneges on a vow to honor the results in his or her district.

Kornacki’s speculative delegate math in this piece has Trump finishing the primary campaign 44 delegates short of a 1,237 majority. However, if Trump were to win 44 of Pennsylvania’s 54 unbound delegates, he would reach that number and clinch the nomination outright.

With so little room for error, a good finish in Pennsylvania will be imperative for Trump. Otherwise, a contested convention in Cleveland may be inevitable.

Paul Dupont is the managing editor for ThePulse2016.com.