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As Donald Trump continues his primary winning streak , many Republicans looking to thwart his path to the nomination are resigned to a rare and controversial tactic to take him out: The chaotic insider's game of picking the nominee hasn't happened in decades. And e ven longtime strategists are uncertain how, or even if, a contested convention would play out. Still, anyone-but-Trump Republicans are convinced it's their best shot to defeat the businessman, who they fear will doom their White House chances in John Kasich's victory in his home state on March 15 kept those hopes alive.
Here is your guide to understanding what a contested convention is, and how it would work. A contested convention arises if no candidate earns a majority of delegates by the end of the primary process.
A Republican candidate must win 1, of the 2, total delegates to win the nomination outright. How people become delegates ranges widely from state to state. Traditionally those delegates were establishment-leaning party insiders think county chairmen who might also be involved in their local Chamber of Commerce. But some local and state parties have been taken over by activists of various stripes in recent years especially libertarian Ron Paul activists in certain states , so it's a mixed bag who their personal loyalties lie with.
Texas delegates cheer as Mitt Romney is nominated for president at the Republican National Convention. Delegates are awarded to candidates based on how they perform in an individual state's primary or caucus, with rules varying widely by state as to how the delegates are assigned.
A convention is contested if no candidate has a majority of delegates going into the convention, but wins a majority of delegates on the first round of balloting. A convention is brokered if it takes multiple rounds of balloting before a nominee emerges. That's why Kasich has been openly talking up the possibility of a contested contention — and why Trump and Cruz have been critical of it. It's likely the only way Kasich or someone else palatable to moderates and the establishment might wind up as the nominee.
Trump has held firm against the idea of a contested convention. Imagine trying to decide where to eat with 10 of your friends. If one restaurant gets the majority of people backing it, everyone goes there. But if there are a few options with a few backers, there's inevitably a lot of fighting, it takes forever to make a decision, the hangriest person ends up losing their temper and people come away with hurt feelings while no one's thrilled with the eventual meal.
Delegates at the Republican National Convention in St. This year's convention will be in Cleveland. Candidates will go into the convention with a certain number of pledged delegates. Those delegates are required — bound — to vote for a candidate on the first round of balloting based on the results of their state. That means the delegates Trump has amassed so far must vote Trump on the first ballot, and the delegates Cruz has earned must vote Cruz, and so on.
If any candidate has 1, delegates, he wins outright. But if the front-runner is just short of that mark, the convention is contested and things get interesting. The delegate count after last night's results: There are a few hundred delegates who come to the convention " un-pledged " — free to choose whomever they wish.
In the second round, more delegates become unbound from their candidate and can vote however they choose on a second ballot.
But some states still require bound delegates to stick with their initial candidate for multiple rounds, which could drag out the process even longer and lead to increased chaos.
There's a new rule this year called Rule 40 , which says a candidate must have won a majority of delegates in at least eight primary contests to even be considered at the convention. The rule was adopted after the convention as a way to prohibit outsiders who hadn't run in primaries from hijacking the nomination at a convention.
The Republican National Committee meets throughout the year, and can attempt to change the rule before the convention or as it begins. Trump is currently ahead of pace to secure the 1, delegates needed to win the nomination outright, according to FiveThirtyEight delegate estimates.
After the March 8 contests, here's where the delegate race stands, per FiveThirtyEight pic. Kasich won his home state of Ohio on March 15, taking all 66 delegates and increasing the likelihood of a contested convention.
On the other hand, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio dropped out of the race after Trump took all 99 of Florida's delegates. Contested conventions are rare. And they don't usually portend good things for a party in a general election in November. The last time Republicans had a contested convention was in , when then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan kept President Gerald Ford from receiving a majority of delegates before the convention. Democrats had a similar scenario in , when then-Vice President Walter Mondale was 40 delegates short of the nomination at the convention.
But he ultimately beat then-Sen. Gary Hart in the first round, only to lose to Reagan in a landslide in the general election. The last time there was a brokered Republican convention was in , when Thomas Dewey defeated Robert Taft after three rounds of balloting.
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