I woke up this morning to Trump winning Nevada by runaway numbers, and in a state of Lovecraftian horror began considering the electoral math more closely.
As it happens, so did the Washington Post. They believe he is almost certainly going to get the delegates he needs. Looking at that makes me understand why Ohio Governor John Kasich insists on remaining in the race — taking Ohio away from Trump might just be the difference between Trump making his numbers before the convention or a brokered convention. Once the revulsion of a potential Trump presidency sinks in, I can understand how stopping him would take priority over considerations about winning or conserving cash … or dignity. That said, Trump is leading in Ohio.
I’ve expected a brokered convention since July or August of last year — that this whole campaign was a long confidence game designed to negotiate business concessions from either Hillary Clinton or the nominee in some back room in Cleveland, something like a free pass from HUD regulation and the EPA or naming rights for national parks in exchange for throwing the election one way or another.
I don’t think so any more. I think he’s probably got the nomination. If that’s the case, many, many Republicans in Georgia are going to sit on their hands in November. And if they do … interesting things happen down ballot. That is, if my fellow Georgia Democrats get their act together enough to pose a threat.
Walk through how this all plays out. There are basically three scenarios. In scenario one, Trump simply loses the nomination and goes home. Some of his supporters gravitate to the eventual winner — Rubio or Cruz — while the rest simply sulk. This is the null case. It changes little or nothing for Georgia Democrats on the ground. It’s unlikely to happen.
Scenario two is the most interesting. There’s a brokered convention, in which Trump has the most delegates … but not enough to win outright … and the rest of the party denies him the nomination. The convention is pandemonium, and Trump runs a third-party race, taking all “true believers” with him. Under these circumstances, Trump’s run would look self-destructive and petulant even to his own people, unless he can promise something. That something would be a slate of party-switching congress-critters and local leaders, largely in the South. This is also unlikely, but less so.
In scenario three, Trump wins the nomination, either through brokering something at the convention, or outright. It is possible that some Republicans will form their own breakaway party at that point, but I doubt it. Nonetheless, Trump will demand the loyalty of his party from top to bottom — because he’s a fascist — and those who don’t will be chastised at best, and targeted at worst.
Trump will call out anyone who doesn’t follow him as pro-establishment flunkies, and may start looking for independents to run on the ballot. Hell, he may start setting that up right now. I think we’re only a few days away from hearing about primary challenges along these lines. It’s part of the negotiation: in order for him to broker a win at the convention, he’s going to need a credible threat. That’s what a credible political threat looks like.
Keep a few dates in mind. The presidential primary in Georgia is March 1. Ballot qualification for the primary election for every other office on the November ballot opens March 7 and closes at noon on March 11. The primary for state house seats is May 24. Notice to run independent has to be made by July 1, while signatures for an independent run have to be submitted by July 12. And the Republican convention will be July 18-21.
After Super Tuesday, I think we’ll know if we’re staring at a brokered convention or not. Trump’s performance here may lead a bunch of people to decide to challenge their House reps out of Trumpian zeal … or others who will want to challenge their reps because they backed Trump.
At least two Georgia state senators and an untold number of House Republicans are actively backing Donald Trump right now.
Democrats will field enough candidates in the State Senate to theoretically take a majority back, under Republican Armageddon conditions. They didn’t run enough candidates in the House last year to even make that threat possible. This time may be different.
I bring all of this up because Democrats can actually win local races in strange places if the Republican electorate is split like this. How many state house seats also become vulnerable to a Democratic flip? How many state senate seats? I think it’s about 15 house seats and four senate seats, but others may have better figures. Maybe more. (Please speculate in the comments.)