The Republican Party is almost out of options for stopping GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump from securing its nomination.
On the heels of Trump’s win in seven of the 11 Republican nominating states Tuesday, many Republicans increasingly believe that the best option for thwarting Trump may in the form of a contested convention.
This requires the collective field of candidates to secure enough of their own delegates that Trump does not get the 1,237 delegates needed to lock up the nomination.
But that scenario then gets messy, as the various candidates — or even outside contenders — see if they can cut a deal to get a delegate majority. And Trump could easily have the more persuasive argument in this scenario if he held far more delegates than his rivals.
Or, if Trump gets the nomination, mainstream Republicans could theoretically run a third-party candidate. But the process of getting on the ballots would be painstaking and expensive, and it would have to begin long before the nominating convention.
Trump is already about one-quarter of the way to securing the nomination, with 335 of the delegates bound to vote for him in the first round of nominating, according to one estimate.
Despite a smaller-than-projected victory in some of the 11 Republican contests Tuesday, Trump still has the most viable path forward to the nomination.
Recent polls show the real-estate magnate leading in states across the US, including delegate-heavy states like Michigan, Kentucky, Illinois. And early polls show him performing well in late winner-take-all contests in Arizona and New Jersey.
Importantly, Trump could also strike a critical blow to the campaigns of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ohio Gov. John Kasich by emerging on top in the winner-take-all contests in their respective home states. Both Rubio and Kasich said they need to win their own states.
However, Trump has led in Florida polls. And at least one poll conducted at the end of last month found Trump leading Kasich by a slim margin in Ohio.
“If Marco doesn’t win Florida, I don’t know how he goes forward, ” Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday.
Rubio, who has only won one of the 15 nominating states thus far, is openly positioning himself for a contested convention.
As The New York Times reported, the Rubio campaign reminded donors last week that if Trump doesn’t win the delegates necessary to lock the nomination going into the convention, those delegates would become unbound, giving Rubio room to woo some over.
In a Wednesday interview on Fox News, Rubio acknowledged reports that his campaign is gearing up for a fight at the Republican convention in Cleveland this summer.
“We are going to campaign in all 50 states, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure not only that I’m the nominee, but that the Republican Party doesn’t fall into the hands of someone like Donald Trump,” Rubio said.
Other Republicans have floated separate ideas to stop Trump from becoming the nominee.
At least one donor group is exploring backing a third-party candidate instead of Trump, while Republican leadership appears ready to help Republican candidates in state and federal races distance themselves from Trump in order to win.
Our Principles PAC — a super PAC backed by big-money donors including Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman and Chicago Cubs owner Todd Ricketts — also announced new high-profile staff hires and renewed commitment to digging up opposition research on Trump and pouring money into anti-Trump ads.
Establishment Republicans may have another, equally unpalatable option for stopping Trump: backing Sen. Ted Cruz.
Cruz’s months-long strategy to clean up among evangelical voters in the South didn’t go exactly as planned. But Cruz avoided a death blow by winning his home state of Texas in a landslide, and notching wins in Alaska and Oklahoma as well. He now has 232 delegates, far fewer than Trump but more than Rubio.
During his victory speech on Tuesday night, Cruz called on his rivals to consider dropping out and throwing their support behind his candidacy.
“For the candidates who have not yet won a state, who have not racked up significant delegates, I ask you to prayerfully consider uniting,” Cruz said on Tuesday.
But while Trump’s support has remained firm throughout the US, after the March 5 primaries, Cruz faces a steep uphill climb in big delegate Northern states where he’s remained low in polls, and could risk losing delegates
Still, even some establishment Republicans are beginning to accept that Cruz may be their best option.
“Ted Cruz is not my favourite by any means,” Graham said on Wednesday. “But we may be in a position where we have to rally around Ted Cruz as the only way to stop Donald Trump. And I’m not so sure that would work.”
Just a few days ago, Graham had joked about Cruz being murdered on the floor of the Senate. Cruz was so disliked by his Senate colleagues, Graham’s joke went, that no one would testify against the killer.
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