Trump faces final hurdles in delegate hunt
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Just a few weeks ago, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE's campaign for the Republican nomination was nosediving. With blunder after blunder, his support was softening. His big loss in the Wisconsin primary reinforced the notion that he was in trouble. An open convention seemed likely. But after his big New York primary win last week and his impressive five primary wins this week, the tables have turned in his favor, and he's now in a full-scale resurgence. His first-ballot nomination is no longer merely possible; it's become likely.

However, there are still a couple of obstacles left for Trump to lock up the nomination.


Since mid-March, I've outlined the number of delegates Trump needs to win state-by-state to reach the 1,237 votes required to clinch the nomination. Since the original analysis, Trump has met or exceeded most of his state targets. The only states where he fell short were Wisconsin and Colorado. Last night, he needed to win 115 delegates out of 172 at stake. Based on current totals, it appears he won about 143 delegates, putting him roughly 28 delegates ahead of his target. The number remains fuzzy, however, because of Pennsylvania's system of electing mostly unbound delegates. But given Trump's big win, it looks probable that he'll get roughly 51 delegates from the state (17 bound, 34 unbound).

Based on this assumption, Trump now has 988 delegates and he needs 249 more.

Here are revised state-by-state delegate targets for Trump to win a first-ballot nomination (with 10 delegates to spare to cover any defections from Pennsylvania):

  • May 3: Indiana, 15 of 57.
  • May 10: Nebraska, 36 of 36; West Virginia, 25 of 34.
  • May 17: Oregon, 10 of 28.
  • May 24: Washington state, 18 out of 44.
  • June 7: California, 95 of 172; Montana, zero of 27; New Jersey, 51 of 51; New Mexico, nine of 24; and South Dakota, zero of 29.

On the primary trail, the next stop is Indiana on May 3 — which could be the ballgame.

Trump needs only 15 of Indiana's 57 delegates to stay on track. But since he's now ahead of his national target by about 28 votes, it's theoretically possible that he could lose all of the state's delegates and still win a first-ballot nomination.

The reason Indiana is so important is because if Trump wins it, as polls show is possible, he would break Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts Pollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls MORE's (Texas) candidacy and sail to a first-ballot nomination.

If Trump loses Indiana, he'd still be on course to win the nomination, but he'd have to win Nebraska, a winner-take-all state, to meet his first-ballot targets. Should Trump lose Nebraska, he'd have to exceed his delegate targets in California, West Virginia, Oregon, Washington and New Mexico, and maybe carry either South Dakota or Montana, to make up for the loss — any or all of which is possible.

Cruz's only path to stop Trump from a first-ballot victory is to win both Indiana and Nebraska, then take Washington, Oregon and New Mexico by hefty margins, and top it off by carrying both South Dakota and Montana, two winner-take-all states. If Trump's current momentum holds, this is not likely to happen. But if it did, Trump would come out of the primary and caucus process still far ahead, but with somewhere between 1,180 and 1,210 delegates, slightly short of what he needs. To make up the deficit, Trump would then have to persuade unbound delegates, one on one, to come to his side — which should be possible for the man who wrote a book called "The Art of the Deal."

The bottom line: Trump will go to the convention with the most delegates and the most popular votes, and it's now probable he will win a majority of the delegates on the first ballot.

Ready or not, here comes the general election.

Faucheux is president of Clarus Research Group, a nonpartisan polling firm based in Washington, D.C. An author and political analyst, he also publishes, a daily newsletter on polls.