When will some of the dozen or so Republican candidates withdraw so we can focus on a two-way race and make a clear decision?
Will Rubio, Kasich, Bush, Christie, Carson, Fiorina, Huckabee, Paul, Santorum et al ever get the message and pull out?
They won’t have to. The party rules will force them out, de facto, on March 1st.
On that date, 14 states will select their delegates to the national convention. A total of 701 delegates will be selected, more than two-thirds of the total needed to win the nomination. But, of these, 388 will be awarded by proportional representation with a minimum threshold to qualify for delegates. To have a shot at 298 of these delegates (including Texas’ 152) a candidate will need to win at least 20 percent of the vote. Anyone falling short of that total won’t get in on splitting the delegates by proportional representation.
So, if Trump gets, for example, 35 percent in a given state and Cruz gets 30 percent, they will divide the delegates proportionately. But if Rubio, Bush, Paul, Kasich, Christie and the others get less than 20 percent of the vote each, they will get no delegates at all. There is little chance of the field whittling down sufficiently for any of these candidates to break the 20 percent threshold, and certainly it would be impossible for more than one to do so.
Thus, de facto, the GOP nomination process will be a two-way race after March 1. Like a freeway that merges from a dozen lanes to two, there will be a mess of traffic and angry campaign managers, but the process is inexorable.
In Texas, there is a 20 percent threshold for the statewide at large delegates and a separate 20 percent threshold for each congressional district’s delegates.
Another 90 delegates will be selected on March 1 by states with either a 15 percent or a 13 percent threshold, making a two-way race in these states somewhat likely.
On March 5 and March 8, 93 more delegates will be selected in 20 percent threshold states and another 81 from 15 percent threshold states.
So, by March 8, 562 delegates will have been chosen by proportional representation from states with 15 percent or 20 percent threshold requirements — for all practical purposes high enough to keep all but two candidates out.
Over the same period, 370 delegates will be selected in states with low or no thresholds. There would be no bar to Rubio, Bush, Kasich, Christie or Paul getting at least a slice of these delegates, but so will Trump and Cruz. Combined, the Trump and Cruz vote totals from these states and from the high threshold states will likely be so high that the small number of delegates these candidates might win in low or no threshold states will not matter much in the final outcome.
And then come the winner take all primaries beginning with Florida, Missouri, and Ohio on March 15th. These will deal the final deathblow to all other candidates (especially to Bush and Rubio should they lose Florida).
A by-product of forcing a two-way race at the outset is that the nominee will likely be known by March 16th. We will have a pretty clear idea of who will win by then.
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