Sean Trende joined The Glenn Beck Program on Wednesday to explain just how a brokered or contested convention might work and broke down how he sees the rest of the GOP primary playing out.
Trende is the senior elections analyst at Real Clear Politics and knows his stuff better than just about anybody.
Listen to the segment from radio or read the transcript below.
The Math is the Math
GLENN: Okay. And, Sean, you're not a political guy. You're just here to tell us how this system works, right?
SEAN: Yeah, that's right. I can't lie and say I don't have strong feelings about some of these candidates. But at the end of the day, I try to be a data guy. The math is the math. And the way we think this thing is going to pan out, you know, it's just driven by the rules and the math.
GLENN: Can anybody actually get to the convention with enough delegates to actually win it outright? Can they?
SEAN: They can. And the fact that John Kasich is going to stay in the Republican race going forward does help Donald Trump do that. But it's by no means a guaranteed thing that this is going to happen. I'd say there's probably a 50/50 shot that no one gets the delegates they need to avoid a contested convention.
GLENN: If Kasich was out, would Cruz have an equal shot at getting the delegates, do you think?
SEAN: Yeah. I think if Kasich had said, you know what, I did what I needed to do in Ohio, but there's no path to the nomination, you know, I'm going to use my 66 delegates to try to be the vice presidential nominee.
If you look at the exit polls, they ask head-to-head questions. In Michigan, Cruz came out ahead of Trump in a two-person race. He almost certainly would have won North Carolina and Missouri. So, yeah, without Kasich, Cruz's path looks much better.
Understanding the Rules
GLENN: Okay. So tell me, what are the rules, can they actually bring somebody in from the outside like this and expect us not to rebel?
SEAN: Yes, they can bring someone in from the outside after the first ballot. But, no, I think especially someone like Jeb Bush who was soundly rejected by the Republican electorate, it would be suicide to have him come in and, surprise! I'm the nominee.
GLENN: Kasich actually thinks he's going to be the president of the United States. He's not not even close. He's not even close. How are they thinking that they're going to manipulate these numbers to be able to get a winner that we could all coalesce around?
SEAN: Yeah. I don't know what Kasich is thinking. I live in Ohio. And it's not surprising to me. But he's -- he's wrong, if he thinks he's going to be the nominee.
Look, I think the idea of Ryan or somebody like that -- look, if we can get to Cleveland and this thing goes five or six ballots and nobody can pull together a majority, in the past, that's where dark horse candidates have emerged. But there's not going to be a scenario where we have the first ballot and then Paul Ryan pops out on the second ballot. Something like that only happens if there's just no way to come to terms with -- between the two candidates who have a reasonable number of delegates.
The Power of Delegating: Explaining the Voting Process
STU: Sean, can you explain the process here? Like, Rubio has 180 delegates, let's say. So they get to the convention. Does he still control those delegates? What happens to those? How does the bargaining process go when it comes to that -- when we get to the actual contested convention?
SEAN: So all this stuff is determined by the states. You know, some states don't have bound delegates at all. From the very first day, they can vote for whoever they want. And some states -- so the primary is just kind of what we call a beauty contest so that people can get a sense of where their state stands up.
Some states bind their delegates for more than one ballot, so on the second and third ballot, they still have to vote for the person. So Rubio can endorse someone. There are some states where he can instruct his delegates to vote for someone else.
STU: So after that first ballot, essentially these delegates in most cases get to do what they want to do. But the thought is that they probably would follow the lead of a Rubio or a Kasich?
SEAN: That's right. And, again, we get into the real nitty-gritty, some states these delegates have been hand-selected by the candidates. So in Ohio, the delegates are Kasich regulars. So they're more likely to listen to him.
In some states, they're just kind of like party officials. You know, the state committee chairman and the large counties. They don't have any loyalty to any candidate outside of what the rules say they have to do on the first ballot. So there it's free agents.
A Close Second Can Come in First
GLENN: So can I ask -- this is a really stupid question. Let's say it's -- I don't know, 1100 for Trump and, you know, 950 for Cruz. And we get to the second ballot or whatever.
How does Cruz not win that when it comes to, we've got a guy who is really close to Donald Trump? How does he not get those extra delegates, just 200 delegates just to push him over the top, especially if Marco Rubio is saying, I strongly urge you, you know? Or, I'm the vice president on that ticket, vote for Cruz.
GLENN: How does he not win that?
SEAN: There are no stupid questions. And that's actually a very smart question.
GLENN: Oh, that's usually what people say when there's a stupid question.
SEAN: No, that is a very smart question. It is the question. Like, there is a point -- like, Donald Trump, if he walks in with 1236 delegates, is still going to be the nominee. But there is a point where, you're right. Like, especially since these delegates are by and large party regulars who have not been favorably inclined towards Donald Trump. You know, I think if Trump is at 1100 delegates, I think you sketched it out exactly right. There will be the first ballot. And then on the second ballot, they will break towards Cruz. But he has to be a substantial amount behind 1237 for that to occur.
GLENN: And what is that number, do you think? 1100?
GLENN: Because we got him unfortunately at 1139 in just doing a back of the paper. Today, we got him at 1139. So you think that's close enough that they'll just say, "He gets it?"
SEAN: You know, so 1139 would be almost exactly 100. You know, now my personal feelings come into it, and I'll say no.
But, you know, like there isn't a bright line, right? But I think 100 is where you start to say, you know, it's probably not going to be Trump being -- but conventions are just funny things. And they have been historically, whenever -- that's why we have these binding rules to keep them from being funny things. It's going to be weird, and it's going to be great for page views and listenership.
Who Runs the Show in a Brokered Convention?
GLENN: Okay. So tell me this: Who puts the convention together? Going into it, usually the nominee is helping pick the speakers and help build the platform and everything else. What happens here?
SEAN: That's another very good question. As you say, historically, you have a presumptive nominee, and the RNC just kind of turns the keys over and gives a bank account to the winning candidacy. But this time, the RNC is going to have to run it. They're going to have to plan it out. And they're going to have to try to plan it out the way it's at least perceived as fair. And that's a really tall task.
GLENN: We look at John Kasich and say, "He just doesn't get it. What delusional world is he living in?" But can I ask the same question -- and I'd love to hear your opinion, if you have one. What delusional world does the G.O.P. come from right now, where Mitch McConnell came out and said, "Hey, you know, maybe we'll throw our support behind Ted Cruz if he apologizes to me?" It was -- it was so clear last night that between Cruz and Trump, the establishment is rejected by the vast majority of people.
Where are they? Where are their heads? What's it going to take for them to start saying, "Hey, maybe I should start listening to the people?"
SEAN: You know, that's a very good question. I mean, this is to a certain degree the G.O.P. establishment's fault. Both in some of the ways they've behaved over the past six years, some major -- ten years really. Some major miscalculations on their part with legislation they've signed on to. I don't know what it's going to take for them to get it. Because it's pretty obvious that, like, your choice is Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. You don't demand that Ted Cruz apologize right now.
The Rubio Effect
STU: We were using this sort of this back-of-the-envelope math, where it's about four to one; they go to Cruz over Trump. Is that what you've seen in exit polls? And you think that that's something that goes forward in the same sort of way?
SEAN: Yeah, it's like I said, these exit polls have asked follow-up questions. So if it were just Cruz and Trump, who would you vote for? And we find that Trump gets almost no increase. No improvement in his showings in those questions.
So, yeah, if Rubio had dropped out two weeks ago or even a week ago, you know, he still would have lost Florida because of all the early voting. But last night would have looked very different.
GLENN: What about Kasich? If he would get out, who do his people break for?
SEAN: Again, his voters are disproportionately post graduate education, live in suburbs, you know, make over $200,000 a year. I don't know that -- I think a lot of them just stay home, quite frankly. But to the extent that they break, I think they break disproportionately for Cruz. They're the antithesis of Trump voters.
Featured Image: Caption:The West side of the US Capitol Building is seen in this May 1, 2012 photo in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)