Donald Trump is warning the GOP against the prospect of a contested convention if he heads into Cleveland with the most delegates, saying Tuesday Republicans are unlikely to win in the fall without the hordes of supporters he’s brought into the fold so far.
“Whoever’s leading at the end should sort of get it, I would think so,” the 2016 GOP presidential front-runner said Tuesday on “Fox and Friends.” “That’s the way democracy works … I’ll tell you, there’ll be a lot of people that will be very upset if that doesn’t happen … we have really fervent, wonderful people and I think that would be pretty unfair.”
RNC officials have downplayed the chances for a contested convention when Republicans officially select their nominee in Ohio in July. Some in the party bent on denying Mr. Trump the nomination, though, are now trying to stop him from accumulating the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination in the hopes of swinging support to another candidate in Cleveland.
For his part, Mr. Trump says his candidacy has attracted a significant number of new voters who wouldn’t participate without his involvement.
“I will tell you, if I am out — if for some reason I’m out, you will lose millions and millions of potential voters out of the Republican Party and I don’t think there’s any track — any way that the Republicans can win,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
While many of the delegates at the convention would be bound on the first ballot to vote based on their state’s primary or caucus results, many would also be freed up to support a different candidate if no one secures a majority on the first vote.
Mr. Trump’s opponents say plan A is to beat him at the ballot box. But they also appear open to a convention battle if no candidate can reach 1,237 delegates before Cleveland.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said Tuesday he’s against a “brokered” convention, where party leaders would basically pick a candidate, but that a contested convention in an effective two-person race would be different.
“If no one gets 1,237 and you’ve got two front-runners — look, Reagan and Ford battled it out at a contested convention,” Mr. Cruz told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly at an event in North Carolina. “If you’re fighting between the candidates who have earned the votes of the people, and it’s the delegates at the convention who’ve been elected to do that, that’s the way the system works, and that’s perfectly appropriate.”
Mr. Cruz added, however, that he didn’t think that would be necessary and that he would beat Mr. Trump once the field narrows.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, meanwhile, has said he believes there will be a contested convention after he wins his home state on March 15.
“I mean, we know what the rules are,” Mr. Kasich said Tuesday on “Morning Joe.” “You either get enough delegates … or, you know, you have to go to the convention and compete.”
A spokesman for Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign likewise said Tuesday the odds of a contested convention will increase if Mr. Rubio wins his home state of Florida on March 15.
“If Marco wins Florida, which I believe he will, when we win Florida, then no candidate will be on the trajectory to securing the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination,” Rubio campaign spokesman Alex Conant said on MSNBC.
Polls released Tuesday demonstrate the seeming difficulty Mr. Cruz, Mr. Rubio or Mr. Kasich will have of actually overtaking Mr. Trump in the delegate count as long as they all remain in the race, even if they ultimately do deny him an outright majority.
A Chicago Tribune poll on Illinois, which also votes March 15, showed Mr. Trump in the lead but with 32 percent support, which was still ahead of Mr. Cruz at 22 percent, Mr. Rubio at 21 percent, and Mr. Kasich at 18 percent.
And a national NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll put Mr. Trump in the lead at 30 percent, with Mr. Cruz close behind at 27 percent, Mr. Kasich at 22 percent, and Mr. Rubio at 20 percent.
But in head-to-head match-ups in the NBC-WSJ poll, Mr. Kasich and Mr. Cruz both beat Mr. Trump by 17 points, 57 percent to 40 percent, and Mr. Rubio beat him by 13 points, 56 percent to 43 percent.