GOP's 'Winner-Take-All' system may open nomination door to Trump...
Initially utilized by William Shakespeare in Hamlet, the phrase "to be hoisted by his own petard" now refers to someone who is hurt or destroyed by their own plot or device. That phrase may well come into play by July 18, 2016 when the Republican Party gathers in Cleveland for its national convention --- precisely because of the undemocratic nature of the GOP's own primary rules.
The Democratic Party will, for the most part, select pledged delegates to its national convention on a proportional basis, based on primary and caucus results in each state. Additionaly, the Democratic Party employs an undemocratic feature in the form of "superdelegates", consisting of Democratic governors, members of Congress, members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other party leaders, including current and former Democratic Presidents.
Like the Democrats, the Republicans also utilize "superdelegates" who are able to play a role in final selection of the party's Presidential nominee. Beyond that, however, the process the Republican Party uses to select its rank and file delegates to their national nominating convention is notably different. Only 16 states, which hold primaries or caucuses prior to March 14, 2016, will select delegates on a proportional basis. All other pledged delegates to the 2016 RNC will be selected based on a winner-take-all system from each state's primary or caucus system.
Where some, like the right-wing National Review, suggest that the crowded field of GOP presidential candidates could produce the first brokered Republican convention since 1976, recent polls suggest a greater likelihood that the GOP will nominate as its standard bearer the candidate least likely to succeed in the general election.
A recently released Quinnipiac University poll, reports that, "with 20 percent of Republican voters, Donald Trump is the clear leader in the crowded Republican presidential primary field." At the same time, interestingly enough, he also "tops the 'no way' list as 30 percent of Republican voters say they would definitely not support him," according to the Quinnipiac poll. Trump has "the worst favorability rating of any Republican or Democrat, a negative 27-59 percent among all voters." The poll also finds that whether matched up against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, Trump would lose the general election by a wide margin.
It really doesn't matter that, nationally, 80% of Republicans may prefer another GOP candidate. In winner-take-all states, like Florida, where Trump leads his closest rival, the state's former two-term Governor Jeb Bush, 26% to 20%, Trump does not have to secure a majority of Republican votes. He need only secure enough votes to defeat whoever comes in second to gain the entire list of Sunshine State delegates to the convention. Accomplish that feat in enough crowded primary states, and Trump becomes the next GOP nominee for President of the United States.
Thus, there's a distinct prospect that the GOP may be hoisted by its own, undemocratic winner-take-all primary petard.
CORRECTION: Originally, we erroneously reported that pledged delegates to the RNC would be selected on a proportional basis in only 4 states. The correct number is actually 16. The article above has been modified to reflect those accurate numbers.
* * *Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam Vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @cann4ing.