Later today, when results from the Republican primary in a number of states across the Northeast come in, the media will in all likelihood pronounce the race over. They’ve made several previous false starts, implying that Trump had it locked up after Super Tuesday, after the March 5th primaries, and after the March 15th primaries. A few overzealous commentators even declared Cruz’s resounding Wisconsin victory the end of the road for Trump.
To some extent you can’t blame them. They need a narrative to push, and the end of the story is usually more interesting than the beginning. There’s no reason for anyone else to be confused, however. The race wasn’t over the last half dozen times it was declared to be, and it won’t be over tonight.
Before we get to that, though, what exactly is going on today? Connecticut (28 delegates), Delaware (16 delegates), Maryland (38 delegates), Pennsylvania (71 delegates), and Rhode Island (19 delegates) all vote today. Republicans in these states are well to the left of the national average, and for that reason they’ve been penciled in as wins for Trump since he achieved frontrunner status. Every analysis of the delegate picture included those delegates in Trump’s tally. The important thing to remember, then, is that the expected happening doesn’t change anything. That’s what the media keeps missing when it declares the race “over.”
So what’s expected tonight? In Connecticut and Maryland, which are winner-take-all by congressional district, Trump is expected to take the vast majority of delegates. Delaware is winner-take-all, and Trump will take all of the delegates. Rhode Island is proportional, but expect Trump to win by enough to take most of the delegates. Pennsylvania is the only wrinkle: the 17 statewide delegates are winner-take-all, but the three delegates attached to each congressional district are, although directly elected, unbound, without their preference listed on the ballot. That will require the campaigns to organize and get a list of friendly delegates into the hands of their supporters. Given the Trump campaign’s remarkable ineptitude, this represents the best chance for the anti-fascist wing of the GOP to make headway today. Nonetheless, Trump’s support is high enough that he can be expected, even with poor organization, to elect his supporters to a significant number of the 54 unpledged slots from Pennsylvania in addition to the more than 100 pledged delegates he’ll take from the other states that vote today.
Assuming, for simplicity, that Cruz and Kasich split the non-Trump delegates, that will bring the Trump’s delegate total to 967, Cruz’s to 574, and Kasich’s to 173 (I’m sure it will be exciting for him to finally pass Rubio, who dropped out more than a month ago). There will be 561 delegates remaining after today.
The only milestone we’ll pass tonight is that unless Cruz takes 117 delegates (which won’t happen), it will no longer be possible for anyone other than Trump to win a majority before the convention. That’s been expected for months now, however; that’s what it means to plan on winning through a contested convention. If the principled faction of the Republican Party does its job, the same will be true of Trump on or before June 7th, when the last states hold their primaries.
The only way tonight could change anything would be if the results somehow defied expectations. If Trump took every delegate, or if Cruz took more than 70, for example, it would change the picture of the race. Trump needs 146 of the 172 delegates at stake to get back on track for 1237, and unless that happens, Trump’s nor’easter will be of little lasting consequence. Regardless of what talking heads on TV say, there’s still time to avert the divine judgement of a Clinton-Trump general election, and doing so should continue to be a goal of every Christian involved in national politics.