Okay, tell a lie – you probably couldn’t have – but, well, you could have had a better chance of stopping him, had all Republican primaries and caucuses so far decided their delegates on a purely proportional basis.
Today, as of the 19th of March, Donald Trump holds a 200-delegate lead, with 673 pledged delegates, so says Google. Ted Cruz comes second with 423, Marco Rubio third with 167 and John Kasich fourth with 144. It’s a reasonable lead for Trump, albeit not impregnable… yet.
There is much talk that Trump won’t secure a majority of delegates come the National Convention in Cleveland. This scenario is very likely, but the idea of contesting the convention and choosing a winner that is anybody but Trump would almost certainly tear the Republican party apart, setting newly joined Trump-Republicans against the establishment/moderate types that refuse to get behind the braggadocios businessman.
Could it have been any different? Could it have been stopped?
Well, unless you want to talk about what the other contenders could have done, no. The fact is, Mr Trump leads the field of popular support when it comes to the tiny share of electors who turn out to vote, but what is not fact – nor is it right, in my, electoral-reform-obsessed view – is how much of a lead he holds with delegates: the numbers that matter come the convention.
Surely it would be right and proper that delegates – by state – should be apportioned… uh, proportionally? Winner-take-all states such as Florida and Ohio – which combined account for 7% of total delegates – should not be won based on who comes first, who’s first past the post, no matter how small the margin, surely?
Had all states held their primaries/caucuses/conventions with purely proportional apportioning of delegates, the race would be… a tad different, as the graphic below details.
Yes, Donald Trump would still lead (so dispense with the champagne) but not by as large a margin as he does today. Instead of leading Ted Cruz in excess of 200 delegates, he’d lead by less than 100. Marco Rubio would hold a comfortable third place, with John Kasich currently snapping at the Florida Senator’s heels instead over 100 delegates behind him.
No one can know for certain how the race may have unfolded were all elections conducted proportionally. Would Jeb Bush, for example, have pulled out after his poor South Carolina performance? Instead of securing no delegates – and Trump all 50 – he would have earned four. In the same contest, would Marco Rubio have had a better chance of positioning himself as the best anti-Trump candidate, narrowly pushing Cruz into third?
Would the psychology of losing a race be as notable as it is now, when who comes first doesn’t matter as much? Bernie Sanders attaining a ‘virtual tie’ in the heavily white, heavily liberal, Bern-feeling-leaning state of Iowa, losing, just, to Hillary Clinton was not characterised as a defeat for him, despite coming second in share and delegate count, but instead as a rallying cry for fresh momentum.
Would Marco Rubio have pulled out after Florida? Well, to be fair, yeah, probably. Failing to come first in your home state, despite (in my proportional scenario) taking 27 delegates, may still hold much impact, regardless of the system of apportioning delegates.
We also don’t know whether electors may have cast their ballots or caucused differently in each of the races. In Britain, a nation rich in tactical voting, we know a more proportional system almost certainly would have seen such. America? Eh. Perhaps.