- - Thursday, March 31, 2016

Irony, thy name is Trump.

As weeks pass by, and GOP wannabe Donald Trump sees himself slowly losing delegates to other candidates who clearly know the rules of the nominating contest better, Trump’s braying about a “stolen nomination” and “unfair treatment by the RNC” grow louder.

The rules governing the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination were set last year - and, it’s worth noting, those rules were well publicized and made clear to all of the campaigns so there would be no mystery about the requirements to become the party’s nominee.

And just for the record, what’s needed to nominate is a simple majority of the delegates - in this year’s case, that’s 1,237. A simple majority - no more, and no less.

Moreover, the rules, as defined by both the Republican National Committee and the individual state parties, stipulate that the vast majority of delegates will arrive in Cleveland “bound” to a certain candidate on the first ballot. If, after that first ballot, no candidate has the necessary 1,237 votes to win the nomination, a second ballot will be conducted, at which point almost half of the delegates are freed from their binding and may vote for whomever they choose. The ballots continue, with larger percentages of delegates “freed up” in each round, until one candidate has 1,237 votes. Those are the rules, plain and simple.

But Donald Trump - never one to allow himself to be encumbered by the rules or by the truth - has a message for America: The nomination is being “stolen” from him. And, with his signature flair for inciting controversy, he has also said, not so subtly, that a failure to nominate him will result in riots.

Further, besides relying on the persuasive powers of the fear of public unrest and street riots, Mr. Trump is already resorting to one of his favorite bullying tactics: lawsuits. The Trump campaign earlier this week filed a complaint with the Republican National Committee over a delegate dispute in Louisiana and has hinted that other lawsuits may follow if the delegate math doesn’t work in his favor.

During an interview on ABC’s “This Week” this past Sunday, Mr. Trump said, referring to Sen. Ted Cruz: “I have a guy going around trying to steal people’s delegates. This is supposed to be America, a free America. You know, welcome to the Republican Party. What’s going on in the Republican Party is a disgrace. I have so many more votes and so many more delegates. And, frankly, whoever at the end, whoever has the most votes and the most delegates should be the nominee.”

Well, no. The GOP nomination, under the rules, does NOT go to “whoever has the most votes and the most delegates,” it goes to the first candidate to win the votes of a simple majority of the delegates at the convention.

It’s worth unpacking Mr. Trump’s entire diatribe.

Mr. Trump often uses the term “stealing” to refer to the perfectly legal and well-established practice of attracting delegates. Although this fact often gets lost in Mr. Trump’s tantrums, “not winning” is not the same as being the victim of a stolen nomination.

Beyond the rhetoric of a “stolen” nomination, Mr. Trump’s words also reveal a fundamental failure to understand the difference between a majority and a plurality. The rules are set so that the nominee must secure a simple majority of the delegates. With 2,472 delegates, that means a candidate must receive votes from 1,237 delegates. That number is rooted in math, not unfairness or arbitrariness, as Donald Trump often argues.

Trump’s campaign seems unable to grasp the significance of a majority when it argues that a simple plurality should suffice. The purpose of the GOP convention in the summer and the entire state-by-state nominating process up to that point is for the party to settle on the best candidate who can win in the ultimate contest - the general election in November. Key to the strategy of winning is going into that match-up with the absolute strongest candidate who can take on the eventual Democratic nominee by shoring up the conservative base and appealing to Independents. And THAT is why it’s a majority, not a plurality, that is necessary to win the nomination.

The rich irony, of course, is that Trump’s loud and litigious protests about the unfairness of the GOP convention’s rules may be the ultimate proof of why the rules are in place and are more necessary this year than ever before. After all, does the GOP really want its standard-bearer and presidential nominee to win the nomination through threats of violence, bullying and lawsuits?

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