Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The morning after: Gaming the Other Party's choices

The anti-Trump Republican elites probably did not sleep well last night. The New York primary win by Trump moved their worst fears another step closer to reality. Brian Beutler at the New Republic reviews the probabilities and the tough choices facing the GOP establishment.

After New York, anti-Trump conservatives are facing a worst-case scenario in which Trump reaches 1,237 in early June, becoming the nominee in Cleveland by acclamation, and a best-case scenario in which Trump arrives in Cleveland with somewhere near 1,200 delegates, and the Republican Party denies him the nomination solely on the basis of elite disdain.

What's the likely delegate count for Trump?

It’s hard to game this race out with any real precision, in no small part because Kasich’s impact on the race is so nebulous. By staying in, Kasich may have denied Trump some delegates in New York, but were he to drop out, he’d free Cruz up to defeat Trump handily in Indiana. Using a conservative simulation, MSNBC’s election savant Steve Kornacki sees Trump entering the convention with 1,199 delegates—nearly 49 percent. Imagine that’s correct, and the dilemmas becomes clear. If unpledged delegates oppose Trump, the question of whether to force a second ballot will be in their hands. #NeverTrump delegates who are pledged to vote Trump on the first ballot will have to ask themselves whether they’re prepared to deny Trump the nomination on the narrowest of technicalities. Anti-Trump conservative pundits will need to weigh the competing imperatives of defeating Trump and running a candidate who enjoys the presumption of legitimacy. If you’re an anti-Trump GOP operative, now’s the time to ask whether its wise to continue attacking him in ways that will damage him in the general election.

You can check out Kornacki's paths to Trump arriving at the convention with a majority of delegates at the Real Clear Politics report.

But if the GOP elites get it together and manage to deny Trump the nomination, what will Trump do? He's predicted riots and millions of GOP voters walking away with him.

In a narrow, zero-sum sense, it doesn’t matter if Trump takes five or 15 or 40 percent of the party with him if he bolts the party, since even five percent will probably be too much for the GOP to remain competitive in November. But there’s a real difference between defeating Trump in a way that satisfies the majority of the party, and wresting the nomination from him in a way that strikes a majority of the party as underhanded. That difference will matter when it comes time for Republicans to pick up the pieces after this primary. And what they may have lost tonight is a way to convincingly argue that they beat Trump fair and square.

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