Thursday, March 17, 2016

Delegate Frontrunners Often Lose At Conventions

Contrary to what we're often told by Trump, his supporters, and his enablers in the media and elsewhere:

Some fellow named Abraham Lincoln arrived at the 1860 Republican convention with 23% of the delegates while William Seward arrived with 38% of the delegates. It would be hard to find any historian or anyone else who does not think the convention system worked pretty well in 1860 or that the Republicans picked the wrong candidate. But maybe Mr. Trump thinks the nation would have been better served with Mr. Seward.

It is the goal of the convention for the delegates to select a nominee who will best represent the political party in the national election. The very nature of claiming that with less than forty percent of the delegates, a candidate should be entitled to the nomination is both nonsense and not in concert with the history of political conventions in the United States.

If Mr. Trump was interested in the history of the United States and he should be, he would know that the leading candidate with less than fifty percent of the delegates on the first ballot almost always is not the nominee. That has been the case in two thirds of the conventions since 1900 where no one has secured the nomination on the first ballot.

There have been nine conventions since 1900 where the presidential nominee was not selected on the first ballot. At only three of those conventions did the first ballot leader secure the nomination. In the other six, candidates with as few as five percent of the delegates at the beginning have been the nominee and often the initially non-leading candidate has won the presidency….

Mr. Trump may be right, there may be many of his supporters who would think it was unfair for him to have the highest number of delegates going into the convention and not get the nomination. However, if Mr. Trump did not intend to play by the Republican convention rules when he began his campaign as a Republican, why did he not start out as a Democrat or an Independent?


  1. I suspect a brokered convention denying Trump the Republican nomination, an outcome which I in no way oppose by the way, will end up splintering the GOP and will result in a 3rd Party run by Trump.

    If the GOP denies him the nomination, he'll deny the GOP his base by running and siphoning votes to ensure a Clinton victory.

    The GOP has painted itself into a no-win corner, yet the leadership is seemingly too inept to even see it.


    1. CR,

      There's more of a problem with inept voters than there is with inept leadership. I think Republican leaders know a lot about what's going on, and they know a lot more about what's going on than the average voter does. Most Republican leaders are more conservative and more responsible in other ways than the average voter. There are a lot of problems with the Republican leadership, but it's common today for people to assign far too much blame to them and far too little to other people.

      If Trump were to run as a third party candidate, he'd have to be willing to set himself up for an even bigger defeat than he experienced in the primaries. He'd have to spend a lot of money he's been unable and/or unwilling to spend so far. He'd be prevented by law from getting on the ballot in a lot of states. I doubt that he'll do it. If he were to do it, that scenario would be preferable to giving him the Republican nomination.

    2. Not being snarky Jason, but of course Republican *leaders* are more knowledgeable, astute, and conservative than the *average* voter. That should be self-evidentially true. If not things are even worse than I, and many of my like minded friends and colleagues believe.

      But the point I think is that leadership sets direction, they lead. I don't see much of that happening in the current cycle with respect to the Trump insurgency, nor in the period leading up to it.

      I think this should be a time of serious listening and soul-searching among the GOP leaders.

      There's a lot to learn here.

    3. CR wrote:

      "Not being snarky Jason, but of course Republican *leaders* are more knowledgeable, astute, and conservative than the *average* voter. That should be self-evidentially true."

      But a lot of people deny it, which is why I addressed the subject. It's common for people to claim that Republican leaders (often referred to disparagingly as "the establishment", "Washington", etc.) aren't conservative, aren't as wise as the voters, and so on. It's a ridiculous notion, but it's popular.

      You write:

      "But the point I think is that leadership sets direction, they lead. I don't see much of that happening in the current cycle with respect to the Trump insurgency, nor in the period leading up to it. I think this should be a time of serious listening and soul-searching among the GOP leaders. There's a lot to learn here."

      Yes, there's a lot to learn, and a lot of mistakes were made, but voters are far more to blame than Republican leadership. Trump's candidacy never should have gotten off the ground. Voters never should have made him the frontrunner. When leaders like Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and Rand Paul warned people about Trump last year, the voters should have listened, should have done more research, and should have reached the conclusion that Trump is a bad candidate. Many of them didn't do that. Even after Rubio, Cruz, and others began a fuller critique of Trump earlier this year, a lot of voters showed little interest. Whose fault is that? When a candidate is as bad as Trump, it's reasonable to expect the vast majority of voters to easily recognize that without much help. The fact that so many voters have so badly misjudged Trump is absurd, and it's unreasonable to expect the Republican leadership to have anticipated such a major misjudgment on the part of so many voters. Giving the voters some time to change their minds made sense, but once their irrationality had continued for a long time, Republican leaders should have made some adjustments accordingly. What Rubio and Cruz did earlier this year, when they stepped up their critique of Trump, should have been done last year and should have been done by more of the candidates. And more of the Republican leadership should be speaking up now, to endorse and campaign with Cruz, to speak out against Trump, etc. We've seen that to some extent, like with the recent comments Nikki Haley and Mitt Romney have made in support of Cruz, but there should be far more of that kind of thing.

      Regarding what led up to the Trump movement, I would repeat what I've said many times before. Republicans control both houses of Congress, most governorships, and most state legislatures. They've achieved a lot of good things at both the state and federal levels. I've repeatedly offered examples (like here and here), and you can find many documented at the web sites of National Right to Life, the National Rifle Association, and other organizations that catalogue that sort of thing. There have been a lot of failures as well, but the successes have been highly underestimated by the Trump movement, talk radio, some conservative web sites, and others who have gone too far in their critique of Republican leadership. There have been a lot of problems with the leadership, but nothing that even comes close to justifying something like the Trump movement or the absurdly negative claims that are frequently made about the Republican leadership on talk radio.

    4. Personally I view the current situation with Trump and his acolytes as being the predictable fruit of *the Republican leadership's* "Big Tent" efforts, which have apparently been quite effective.

      I agree with you that there are a lot of absurd things swirling around in the current election cycle, but to me it's patently absurd for *the Republican leadership* to disavow responsibility for the Trump insurgency when their own policies have created the necessary preconditions for exactly this type of outcome. How could any sane, thinking person *not* see inviting the Huns inside through open gates might be a bad idea?

      And attempts to exculpate *the Republican leadership* for the Huns they invited in running amok and destroying things is frankly a little maddening for me, personally.

      I appreciate you and your analysis, but I think you're giving a pass to the GOP leadership that's totally undeserved.

      Of course this just my personal opinion.

    5. I don't know what Huns you have in mind or what pass you think I'm giving Republican leadership. The validity of your position depends on those details.

    6. Jason,

      A lot of what I hear from people like my friend, who is a Trump supporter, saying is that the Republican controlled congress doesn't do things like fight against abortion. They say they will, but then when they get control of congress they don't do it. I'm not sure if this is actually true or not. Looking at this link: it appears that congress has tried to address the issue of abortion. Would you agree?

    7. Jonathan,

      Yes, I agree that Congress has taken some action on abortion and related issues (judges, etc.). In addition to what you've linked above, organizations like National Right to Life provide examples at their web sites. And we have to take the Republicans' actions at the state level into account. A lot has been done for the pro-life movement by Republicans operating at the state level.

      But you need to get behind the assumptions your friend is making. What does a presidential campaign have to do with Congress? If you're upset with Mitch McConnell, why would you take that out on Scott Walker? Or Ben Carson? Or Carly Fiorina? And so on. Even among those who have been in Congress and have run for president, why think they're all responsible for everything you dislike about Congress? Why blame Ted Cruz for the mistakes of John Boehner, Paul Ryan, or Mitch McConnell? What's the logical connection between, on the one hand, being upset with John Boehner and, on the other hand, refusing to vote for Bobby Jindal or John Kasich in a presidential campaign? And why think Trump is an acceptable solution? How does he solve the problem? Why think the good he allegedly would do outweighs the mountain of weaknesses he has, like the ones we've documented? You have to take the totality of the evidence into account, not just one portion of it, such as how upset you are with Congress.

      You could also ask your friend what evidence he has for his view of Congress. There's a good chance that he's inordinately dependent on largely unreliable talk radio programs or web sites, for example, and is making his judgments based on a lot of misinformation.

      Ask your friend what condition he thinks our society is in. For example, is he operating under the misconception that most Americans are conservatives? Is he underestimating how corrupt the nation is? If so, he may be expecting the Republicans to accomplish more than he should be expecting them to accomplish in this sort of atmosphere. When a culture is this corrupt, there's only so much that Congress or a president can do. If you want documentation about the state of the culture, you can find a lot of it in previous threads here, like the ones under our Time Management and Social Commentary labels.

      You also should ask your friend to address the issue of electability. Given how bad Trump's electability is (losing to Clinton by a double-digit percentage in recent polling, a higher unfavorability rating than Gallup has found for any presidential nominee from either party in about a quarter of a century of tracking those numbers), why think he'll get elected?