- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Donald Trump is now on target to win the Republican presidential nomination at the GOP’s July convention, holding support from half of all delegates allocated so far, thanks to a massive haul Tuesday night that puts him firmly in the driver’s seat.

A Washington Times analysis found at least three dozen of the 54 “unbound” delegates elected in Pennsylvania’s primary have signaled support for Mr. Trump, and combined with the 953 “bound” delegates already won, that gives him a majority of all delegates awarded in the states that have voted so far.

It’s the first time he’s crossed the 50 percent threshold, and it means he only needs to win a majority in the remaining states to close out the nomination on the first ballot in Cleveland.

“I don’t think it gets to a second ballot anymore. I think he is the presumptive nominee,” said Mike Puppio, the chairman of the Springfield Republican Party who won a seat as a delegate from Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, and who said he’ll now support Mr. Trump because the billionaire businessman won the popular vote in his district.

Going into Tuesday, Mr. Trump had won about 45 percent of all delegates awarded. But his massive wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island earned him most of the 172 delegates at stake. He is now nearing 1,000 delegates overall and is more than 400 ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz, his closest competitor.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the third major candidate still in the race, trails far behind with only about 160 delegates. He’s even still behind Sen. Marco Rubio, who has won more than 170 delegates despite having dropped out of the race nearly a month and a half ago.

Mr. Trump proclaimed himself the “presumptive nominee” on Tuesday night, and analysts and activists said he’s probably justified after notching the kinds of margins a clear front-runner should be tallying at this point in the race.

“The fat lady may not be singing, but she’s certainly on stage, and I’m just waiting for Donald Trump to make fun of her weight,” said Charlie Gerow, a GOP strategist in Pennsylvania who ran to be both a delegate and an alternate. He lost the delegate race to a slate of three avowed Trump supporters but did earn an alternate’s post.

He said Mr. Cruz does have a chance to derail Mr. Trump in Indiana, which votes next Tuesday, but soon after that the conversation will shift to the inevitability of Mr. Trump. That’s when more free agent delegates will begin to announce they’ll support the front-runner at the convention.

Hoping to steal some attention Wednesday, Mr. Cruz announced that he would select businesswoman Carly Fiorina, a former GOP presidential candidate herself, to be his vice president.

The pick was widely praised by conservative grass-roots leaders eager to stop Mr. Trump.

For weeks those top-Trump forces had predicted that Mr. Trump was vulnerable, saying that while he won the popular vote, he lacked the commitment and organization to battle for the delegates who will actually decide the nomination.

If no candidate can get to 1,237 votes on the first ballot at the convention, many of the delegates become free agents and are able to vote their conscience — and Mr. Cruz and Mr. Kasich are counting on swaying them.

But Tuesday’s results showed Mr. Trump — and, more importantly, his supporters — are able to organize when they need to and can win the trench warfare delegate battle.

That was particularly true in Pennsylvania, which has one of the more convoluted systems for selecting its delegates: The state awarded just 17 of its 71 delegates automatically to the overall winner. The rest were elected directly by voters, three from each of the 18 congressional districts, and are not automatically bound to support any candidate.

Mr. Cruz and Mr. Kasich had vowed to outwork Mr. Trump and have their supporters win those seats, but the Trump camp instead outhustled them, compiling lists of delegates who were friendly to their cause.

And Trump supporters took matters into their own hands.

Andrew Shecktor, who won a delegate seat, put together a master list of all delegates and their commitments at his website, Vote-pa.com. He said he saw voters with copies of the tally sheet at the polls Tuesday, and that helped Trump voters identify who they needed to elect as delegates.

“It got us not just the votes, but it got us educated voters in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Mr. Shecktor was competing in the 11th District, where he was one of three proclaimed Trump supporters. He counted eight Cruz supporters, one Kasich supporter and at least two who vowed to follow however the district voted.

Mr. Shecktor said his name was at the bottom of the ballot — usually a terrible place to be — but Trump backers searched him out, as well as the other two Trump-committed candidates, and all three won.

“We slammed it, we just killed it,” he said.

At least eight of the delegates selected Tuesday had promised to support whichever candidate won the popular vote in their congressional district, and almost all of those will now go to Mr. Trump, The Times found.

“I made that commitment pretty public. I think I have to go with that,” said David Dumeyer, chair of the Lancaster County Republicans, who won a delegate seat from the 16th Congressional District.

Between outright Trump supporters and those who said they’d follow the popular will, the Times count shows at least 36 unbound delegates will be backing Mr. Trump at the convention.

Justin DePlato, a Trump backer who won a delegate seat in the 18th Congressional District, said he expects that number to grow even higher.

“I expect Mr. Trump will have close to 45 of the 54 unbound delegates based on the election results, but at Convention I suspect the PA delegation will vote unanimously for Mr. Trump,” he said in an email. “The Trump ground game was overwhelmingly organized, structured and beneficial to the Trump pledged delegates. The campaign helped us with advertising, slate cards and poll workers.”

Chris Vogler, a delegate from the 1st Congressional District, said that he remains uncommitted but is leaning more toward Mr. Trump following his big win.

“The district voted very heavily for Donald Trump, and I am seriously going to consider that, but there are a few issues I am going to ask for the positions of some of the candidates,” Mr. Vogler said, before emphasizing his desire to hear more from the candidates on school choice. “I’d say now I have a slight lean toward Trump because of how the district voted.”

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