Andy Schmookler: Possible GOP presidential scenarios

Andy Schmookler

Andy Schmookler

The current Republican presidential campaign has not only been full of surprises, but it has led to a situation with such a maelstrom of unpredictable factors that the range of possible scenarios for the Republican’s nominating convention in July is extraordinarily wide.

Here’s a layout of the apparent possibilities:

1. Trump wins on the first ballot. Likelihood: 40 percent.

(Likelihoods here calculated from the political futures markets, where people who think they know something place bets on outcomes, and whose collective wisdom generally is superior to individual judgments.)

It has been generations since the first ballot of a major party convention didn’t produce a nominee. In the Republican race, only Donald Trump seems to have a chance of being nominated on the first ballot.

That scenario would likely produce the least chaotic convention. Although much of the party regards a Trump nomination as a recipe for a disaster in the fall, and other Republicans running this year would likely try to separate themselves from the top of the ticket, a first-ballot Trump nomination seems least likely to produce disturbances on the convention floor or on the streets outside.

2. Trump is nominated on a subsequent ballot. (Likelihood 10 percent.)

If Trump fails on the first ballot, his chances diminish. He’s been so far outmaneuvered by the Never Trump organization behind Ted Cruz that many delegates who must vote for Trump on the first ballot will eagerly abandon him for any later voting. So, while Trump might still be the nominee in that scenario, it is not clear how he picks up the extra votes he lacked in the first round.

3. Cruz gets the nomination on a later ballot. (Likelihood: 34 percent)

Those who want to avoid a Trump nomination are hoping for a “contested” convention. But the stop-Trump forces also face the threat of outrage from Trump and his backers if the candidate with the most support from the base is denied the nomination. There are dangers of upheaval within the convention and perhaps even ruptures in the party afterward.

But the futures markets are saying that if he survives the first ballot, Cruz has a better than 50-50 chance of being the nominee.

4. Someone other than Trump or Cruz emerges as the nominee. Likelihood 16 percent.

A lot of the support now for Cruz is not really for him but is backing Cruz only as a way of stopping Trump. Cruz also poses problems for the party: he is reportedly almost universally disliked by those who know him, and many fear that his ideological extremism would make him only a little less disastrous to have at the top of the ticket than Trump.

Many prominent Republicans – including those also up for election this November – would like to have someone other than Trump or Cruz as the nominee. But who? And how?

Putting anyone else’s name into nomination would require the party to change its rules. The rules from 2012 were designed to block Ron Paul from disrupting Romeny’s convention, and by those rules only Trump and Cruz will meet the criterion for being put into nomination.

The rules committee, which meets in the week prior to the convention, can adopt whatever rules it wants. But as Trump and Cruz share an interest in confining the options to the two of them, how likely is it that a majority of delegates on that committee will act contrary to the desires of both leading candidates?

But assuming a rule change opens things up, who else could win the nomination?
Kasich apparently would be the strongest GOP contender for the general election, but he is hardly in sync with the Trump and Cruz people who have responded favorably to what Kasich has just called “the path of darkness.”

Paul Ryan seems to have firmly removed himself from consideration, which appears wise: Ryan would like someday to be president, is young enough to be patient, and would injure those prospects if – as part of the “Establishment” — he incurred the wrath of all those in the base who have supported the anti-establishment candidates, Trump and Cruz.

Nor would it seem to bode well for the party to go with Romney again.

Resurrecting some of the establishment candidates who dropped out – like Rubio and Jeb – would not seem a way to strengthen the GOP ticket, or to protect party unity against the rage of the base whose choices would have been disregarded.

Various possible paths – none of them clear, and all of them fraught with major dangers to the party.

Andy Schmookler is the author of “What we are up against: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World- and How We Can Defeat It.”

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