By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
Donald Trump is pretty good at selling stuff and now he is fresh from a victory in the New York State Primary last week and his sweep of five primaries this week which guarantees that he will go to the Republican convention with at least a plurality of delegates.
Whether it is real estate, his clothing line or his reality TV shows, Trump knows how to market his products. But I think he will have difficulty selling his Trump whine.
It seems that only recently has the Trump campaign for President cared enough to understand the rules of the nomination as set forth by the Republican National Committee years before Trump entered the race last June. Donald Trump spent most of his time tweeting his way through the early primary and caucus elections. He should have been reading up on the rules.
He is now loudly complaining that the game is rigged… against him. Trump believes that because he has (so far) won more delegates than any other candidate, that he should be given the nomination. The Trump campaign was okay with winning only a plurality of the vote in a state but receiving all the delegates in certain primaries. But when the tables were turned and Trump did not get as many delegates as his popular vote percentage, well he is now crying “Foul”, “thievery” and worse.
There is a realization setting in on the Trump campaign that in spite of polling ahead of his rivals he may not get the majority of delegates needed to win the nomination and that is driving the Donald into near apoplectic hysteria. The rules of the Republican nomination are the same for Trump as everyone else. They should have been understood by all the candidates going into the contests in each state.
And this is not unprecedented. Right here in New York City if you are running for a citywide office and seeking the nomination of your party it is not enough to get the most votes in the primary, a candidate must reach or exceed 40 percent in order to claim their party’s nomination for mayor, comptroller or public advocate. If not, the two highest voted candidates then face each other in a run-off. So the candidate with the most votes in the primary does not necessarily win the nomination.
These rules were put in place to protect against some candidate winning a plurality in a multi candidate field but nonetheless not enjoying the confidence or support of most people. So candidates must demonstrate broad appeal to win their party’s nomination. Such is also the case with the Republican nomination. Although Trump seems to have the rabid and unqualified support of about 35 percent of the Republican electorate he is just as strenuously opposed by at least that amount and probably more. In fact in recent polls more than half of Republican voters say that if Donald Trump were their party’s nominee that they could not vote for him in the general election. So that is why winning a lot of multi candidate primaries but falling short of the majority of delegates needed to secure the nomination does not guarantee that Trump will wind up as the Republican party candidate.
Should the delegate selection process be changed? That is a worthy argument. But the rules of engagement were known to all candidates a year ago. Trump’s complaint that the system is corrupt and rigged against him is a very hard sell. Moreover Trump’s claim that he should be the party’s nominee based on less than a majority of delegates won in primaries is dubious. This is American politics at the national level and not some reality TV show where the star gets to write the script. Donald Trump’s whine seems like sour grapes.