GOP rivals scramble to 1,237

One month before the Iowa caucuses, GOP candidates for the White House are scrambling for a strategy to 1,237.

That's the number of delegates a Republican needs to win the GOP presidential nomination and prevent a chaotic convention in Cleveland. 

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It's been nearly 40 years since a Republican contest came down to the convention, but it's conceivable that this year's wild race featuring frontrunner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Trump Jr. declines further Secret Service protection: report Report: Mueller warned Manafort to expect an indictment MORE could be decided by GOP delegates in July. 

How would the contest come down to Cleveland?

If several candidates split the 2,472 delegates that are up for grabs — and no one reaches 1,237 — Republicans will go to Cleveland to pick their nominee.

Trump leads in polls in a number of states, making him the clear frontrunner. 

Yet doubts about Trump's strength remain, and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea GOP state lawmakers meet to plan possible constitutional convention MORE (R-Texas) has emerged as a real conservative rival and a favorite to win Iowa on Feb. 1. 

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration MORE (R-Fla.) is also in the GOP's top tier, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie think they can emerge in New Hampshire's primary. Both are hitting Rubio hard, with a super-PAC supporting Bush launching an ad campaign in Iowa this week to blunt Rubio's momentum.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is fading in polls, but remains a favorite among some conservatives. 

Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Lawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program MORE (R-Ky.), former HP executive Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) are all hanging on. 

After March 14, the GOP allows states to award delgates on a winner-take-all basis. Those all-important states/territories are Florida, Ohio, the Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Arizona, Delaware, Nebraska, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota. 

It's certainly possible that Trump will steamroll everyone — or that Cruz, Rubio or someone else will suddenly emerge as the candidate Republicans rally around. 

It's also possible that several of these candidates hang on to win their share of states.  

Here’s a look at the frantic months to come in the race to win 1,237 delegates — 50 percent plus 1 of the total.

Early states:

The four early states traditionally set the pace for the presidential contest, and if someone can win all four or even three of the four, they will be the favorite to win the nomination.

Right now, however, it seems likely that different winners will emerge from the four states.  

In Iowa, where delegates are awarded proportionately, it's a two-man race between Trump and Cruz, who has emerged in recent weeks as a favorite. 

In New Hampshire, Trump is the clear leader. After him, there's a logjam that includes Christie, Bush and Kasich, who have banked their hopes on the Granite State. Cruz and Rubio are also polling well there, which means the state's 30 delegates could be divided in the proportional system. 

South Carolina typically caters to a more conservative candidate, with Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Ben Carson running well there right now. 

South Carolina will give 29 delegates to the popular vote winner and three to the winner of each of its seven congressional districts. There's a good chance the winner in South Carolina will take an early lead in the delegate race.  

Polling is spottier in Nevada, which holds a relatively low-turnout caucus where delegates are awarded proportionately. The key question will likely be whether Trump can turn out caucus support among first-time voters, especially since the lack of same-day registration necessitates a strong organization.

Feb. 1:        Iowa caucus (30 delegates) 

Feb. 9         New Hampshire primary (30 delegates) 

Feb. 20:      South Carolina primary (50 delegates)

Feb. 23:      Nevada caucus (30 delegates)

SEC Primary and more:

March 1, known as the SEC primary, marks the most delegates awarded on a single day.

The belt of mostly southern states has been key for both Trump and Cruz, and Cruz gets the home-field advantage in the Lone Star State. 

If a number of candidates emerge from the first four states thinking they can still compete, the outcome on March 1 could winnow the field. Yet because the contests are proportional, it may be unlikely for one candidate to  walk away with a majority of delegates.

All of these states hand out delegates proportionally, with various minimum percentages required to win them:

                Alabama primary (50 delegates)

                Alaska caucus (28 delegates)

                Arkansas primary(40 delegates)

                Georgia primary (76 delegates)

                Massachusetts primary (42 delegates)

                Minnesota caucus (38 delegates)

                Oklahoma primary (43 delegates)

                Tennessee primary (58 delegates)

                Texas primary (155 delegates)

                Vermont primary (16 delegates)

                Virginia (49 delegates)

Precursor to Super Tuesday:

In between the two biggest days for delegates – the SEC primary and Super Tuesday — campaigns will look for momentum with pickups in these states. Carson could have the inside track in Michigan after growing up in Detroit, while Paulif his campaign is still alive, could find a small life raft in his home state of Kentucky. All of these states reward delegates proportionally.

March 5:           

               Kansas caucus (40 delegates)

               Kentucky caucus (46 delegates)

               Louisiana primary (46 delegates)

               Maine caucus (23 delegates)

March 6:            

               Puerto Rico primary (23 delegates)

               Hawaii caucus (19 delegates)

               Michigan primary (59 delegates)

               Mississippi primary (40 delegates)

               Washington D.C. convention (19 delegates)

Super Tuesday:

As of March 15, Super Tuesday, states can award all delegates to one candidate. Florida's 99 delegates are a particularly big prize because it is a winner-take-all state, unlike New York and Texas. It will almost assuredly award the most delegates to a single candidate of any other state.

Bush and Rubio likely see their home state as a firewall, hoping their deep roots can translate in to a major reward. But Trump’s current lead there leaves that plan in doubt, and could keep the door open for Cruz if he woos the real estate magnate’s supporters.

Ohio's 66 delegates will also be winner take all. That puts KasichOhio’s popular governor, in a similar spot there as the Floridians, if he can sustain momentum to survive until then.  

Florida primary (99 delegates)

Ohio primary (66 delegates) 

Northern Mariana Islands caucuses (9 delegates)  

Illinois primary (69 delegates) 

Missouri primary (52 delegates)

North Carolina primary (72 delegates) 

Race slows into April:

More than 200 delegates will be awarded in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in April, a potential boon for establishment candidates. If the race isn’t wrapped up by this point, the slower pace could hurt campaigns strapped for cash. 

March 19:     Virgin Islands caucus (9 delegates) 

March 22:     Arizona primary (58 delegates) 

                    Utah caucus (40 delegates) l

April 5:         Wisconsin primary (43 delegates)  

April 19:       New York primary(95 delegates) 

April 26:       Connecticut primary (28 delegates) 

                  Maryland primary (38 delegates)  

                   Delaware primary (16 delegates) 

                Pennsylvania (71 delegates) 

                    Rhode Island (19 delegates) 

Last chance:

Unless the party is heading toward a brokered convention, it’s unlikely the race makes it to May. The last time more than one major GOP candidate ran into May of primary season was George H.W. Bush in 1980, who dropped out in early May.

May 3:        Indiana (57 delegates) 

May 10:      Nebraska (36 delegates 

                  West Virginia (34 delegates) 

May 17:      Oregon (28 delegates) 

May 24:      Washington (44 delegates) 

June 7:       California (172 delegates) 

                  Montana (27 delegates)

                  New Jersey (51 delegates) 

                  New Mexico (24 delegates) 

                 South Dakota (29 delegates) 

Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, American Samoa and Guam won't hold presidential preference votes in 2016 in the hopes of granting delegates more autonomy. But because of obscure state party rules, Unversity of Georgia political science professor Josh Putnam told The Hill, North Dakota is the only one likely to send completely unbound delegates to the convention. 

--This report was updated on Jan. 3 at 11:51 a.m.