Trump Derides Rules That Have Helped Him So Far

Now that the businessman is no longer getting relatively more delegates than votes, he is crying foul.

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Poor Donald Trump. The self-professed dealmaker of the century appears to have only just found out that closing the deal with Republican primary voters is going to require more than him winning a plurality of the vote.

The New Yorker’s closest rival, Texas senator Ted Cruz, won all of the 34 delegates available at state and local conventions held in Colorado this weekend. His campaign and that of the third man running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, John Kasich, have also been able to place dozens of loyalists into delegate slots in Iowa, Michigan and South Carolina recently.

Those delegates could defect if Trump doesn’t get the support of a majority of 1,237 delegates at the nominating convention in Cleveland this summer.

“Crooked deal”

Trump is crying foul. “The people out there are going crazy,” he told Fox News on Monday, “in the Denver area and Colorado itself.”

They’re going absolutely crazy because they weren’t given a vote. This was given by politicians. It’s a crooked deal.

One of his top aides had accused Cruz of “Gestapo tactics” in an interview with NBC a day earlier for taking advantage of the delegate-selection rules.

Trump’s chances of reaching 1,237 delegates before the convention now look slim. He may not even do well in his home state of New York next week because primary voters there had to register as Republicans in October. Many of Trump’s supporters, including, it turns out, two of his children, will have failed to switch parties or register at all in time.

Rotten boroughs

The nominating rules were, of course, designed to benefit an insider: someone with strong institutional support, who would advance the party’s platform and stand a reasonable chance of defeating the Democratic candidate in November.

None of that describes Trump. But if anyone has a right to complain it’s his rivals. Trump has only won 37 percent of Republican primary votes yet 46 percent of the delegates allocated so far are pledged to support him on the convention’s first ballot.

In part that’s because, as David Wasserman has explained at FiveThirtyEight, Trump does well in “rotten boroughs” with few right-wing voters.

Consider the Northern Mariana Islands. The territory’s convention drew just 471 participants this year, but Trump got (all) its nine delegates.

Or consider Democratic-leaning districts in cities like Chicago and New York. The Atlantic Sentinel reported back in November that Republican Party rules give “blue” districts relatively more say in the presidential nominating contest than “red” ones.

New York’s fifteenth congressional district, for examples, which is entirely situated in the Latino-heavy Bronx, gave Mitt Romney only 5,315 votes in 2012. Yet it sends as many delegates to the convention (three) as the whitest suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama where 233,803 residents voted for Romney.

We assumed this discrepancy would help a relatively centrist or pragmatic candidate, like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.

Trump, Wasserman points out, has bulldozed this assumption by dominating enclaves of working-class white voters in areas with majority black or Hispanic populations.

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