On the same March day Republican Donald Trump won a narrow victory in the North Carolina primary, he won Florida with a more commanding 45.7 percent of the vote. He was awarded all of Florida’s 99 delegates.
The previous month, Trump won the South Carolina primary with 32.5 percent of the vote. He was awarded all of South Carolina’s 50 delegates, too.
Neither of those delegate distributions are particularly representative of the raw vote totals, but there were no complaints from Trump or his supporters after either primary. Nor should there have been. The delegates were awarded based on state party rules that were established long before the primary. He won them, fair and square.
But now, Trump isn’t such a big fan of state party rules. He’s been grumbling a lot lately about how the Republican primary process is undemocratic, and how party officials are out to get him.
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“Our Republican system is absolutely rigged,” he said last week. “It’s a phony deal.”
No, it’s not. The complaints, however, are.
Trump’s bellyaching was prompted earlier this month by the GOP convention in Colorado, where Republican candidate Ted Cruz was awarded 34 delegates in a process that didn’t involve a formal primary.
The rules governing that process – as well as each state’s procedures for selecting and awarding delegates – were finalized last October. Each candidate knew them. Each has been playing by those same sets of rules.
What makes Trump nervous is that the GOP requires that its nominee has a majority of delegates – 1,237 – after the first round of the national convention in Cleveland. Those first-round delegates are bound by state primary and caucus results, but many of those delegates can vote for whichever candidate they choose in subsequent rounds.
Knowing that Trump might not reach Cleveland with the magic number of 1,237, the Cruz campaign has worked hard to get his supporters placed on state delegations to the convention. It’s crafty. It’s working. And it’s allowed.
Is it “democratic”? Well, no. But neither primary process – Republican or Democrat – really is. They are designed to produce candidates that have the broadest support in their party, because that gives the candidate and the party the best chance to win in November.
In plain terms, that means if a frontrunner can’t manage to win half his party’s delegates by the end of primary season, the party wants all the delegates to consider if another candidate might be a better choice.
All of which might be moot if Trump has a strong run through some favorable upcoming primaries, including New York on Tuesday. There, delegate counters think Trump should win most and perhaps all of the state’s 95 delegates. To do so, he’ll need to finish with at least 50 percent of the vote both statewide and in each of New York’s 27 congressional districts.
That’s more complicated than the winner-take-all delegate rules in states like Florida, but we doubt Trump will be complaining come Tuesday. He should stop whining when things don’t go so well.