GOP Rule 40(b) Almost Guarantees Trump Nomination

Today is “Super Tuesday” in American politics, so labeled because 11 states and a territory are voting for convention delegates. The media have focused on the horserace, some of the rookies are looking at the delegate count, but the professionals already know that the nomination is Mr. Trump’s based on the rules of the party. Ironically, the particular rule in question, 40(b), was designed to insure that no insurgent candidate could wrest the nomination away from Willard “Mitt” Romney in 2012. It is now working to prevent the establishment from stopping Mr. Trump at the convention.

The relevant part of Rule 40 (b) reads, “Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight (8) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination.”

This rule was amended in 2012 to prevent Ron Paul from having his name placed in nomination and upsetting the Mitt Romney parade to defeat. At the time, one’s name could be placed in nomination with just a plurality of delegates from five states. The change to a majority of eight prevented Mr. Paul from achieving anything at all; moreover, it was viewed as a way to protect President Romney’s re-election bid from an insurgent challenger. Apparently, it never occurred to the Republican National Committee that there would be no President Romney to protect.

Rule 40 (b) cannot be changed until the delegates on the Rules Committee meet and decide it needs changing. Then, the changes would go to the convention floor for approval. However, a little common sense and basic arithmetic suggest the rule will not be changed. In order to change the rule, one must cobble together a majority in the Rules Committee and on the floor of the convention. Any candidate who can do that probably will have the backing of a majority delegates from eight states. In other words, a candidate who can change the rules will have no incentive to do so. And any candidate who needs to have the rules changed probably has not got the votes to get it done.

One must also consider that proportional representation and the several candidates still in the race may well render some states incapable of mustering a majority for any single candidate. Looking at the first four races, only one has resulted in a majority for one candidate — South Carolina’s 50 delegates all belong to Mr. Trump. He won 14 of Nevada’s 30, two short of a majority with four other candidates having at least one delegate. He secured 11 of New Hampshire’s 23, one short, while the rest were divided among three others. Iowa has 30 delegates, and Mr. Cruz won 8, Messrs. Trump and Rubio 7 each, Dr. Carson has 3, and Governor Kasich 1. Getting a majority in 8 states is going to be hard.

At the convention, deals can be made among the campaigns to create a situation where some of Mr. Cruz’s people will help put Mr. Rubio’s name in nomination so long as Mr. Rubio’s delegates in other delegations help Mr. Cruz. However, that would represent a level of cooperation unseen thus far in the campaign.

Seventeen races are winner-take-all. Other states have provisions that allow for all the delegates or a substantial bonus number of delegates may be awarded if a certain threshold is reached. Yet 29 states and territories are holding their contests before March 15 when winner-take-all events are permitted. There are ways to win all the delegates as Mr. Trump did in South Carolina, but simply getting the most votes in the state is not one of them in those places.

In short, given the current polls, the calendar, the methods of awarding delegates, and the requirements of Rule 40 (b), it is safe to presume that Mr. Trump will be the only candidate whose name can be put into nomination in July.