How Cruz & Kasich Are Teaming Up To Defeat Trump

Update: Republican rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich are teaming up in an effort to take down front-runner Donald Trump. The campaigns announced Sunday that they plan to coordinate in the remaining GOP presidential primary contests in hopes of blocking Trump from winning the delegates needed to secure the nomination outright at the party's July convention. In a statement reported by The New York Times, Cruz's campaign manager confirmed that the candidate's team plans to “focus its time and resources in Indiana and in turn clear the path for Governor Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico.” If they succeed, Republicans will most certainly see a contested convention in Cleveland. Trump took to Twitter to blast the proposal as an act of "DESPERATION!"
Ahead, we break down what a contested convention would mean for the GOP. This story was originally published April 6, 2016. When you imagine a political convention, you probably think of speeches, candidate swag, and showers of red, white, and blue balloons. But the quadrennial gatherings also produce political fireworks. And sometimes they even feature drawn-out fights over the presidential nominee — and future of the party. In 1924, for example, the fight to name a Democratic candidate for the November ballot lasted weeks and involved more than 100 rounds of voting. Despite predictions, political hand-wringing, and plenty of party infighting in recent elections, it's been decades since a brokered convention — a situation where no candidate has enough delegates to win the nomination in the first round of voting — actually occurred. This year could be different. Dr. Lara Brown, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, told Refinery29 that she believes "we are absolutely headed toward a contested convention." "I think every day that just becomes more and more likely," she said. That's due to the growing effort from a faction of Republicans to prevent front-runner Donald Trump from securing the nomination. While Trump had led the polls and delegate count, it's a real possibility that he'll fall shy in his bid to win the 1,237 delegate votes needed to win the nomination outright come July. And on the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders continues his push to chip away at Hillary Clinton's lead. Ahead, we break down how the convention works and what to expect if this year's nominating circus produces a fight on the floor.

What are the national political conventions?

At the most basic level, the conventions are gatherings where the Democratic and Republican parties select their presidential nominees and adopt a political platform. The quadrennial meetings are a fairly new convention in American politics — the first one happened in the 1830s, and candidates themselves didn't start appearing for another 100 years, when Franklin D. Roosevelt showed up in Chicago to accept the Democratic nomination in person, as the History Channel notes. Another important element: The multi-day meetings are organized and run by the parties — not required by federal law or the Constitution (more later on why that matters). This year, the Republican Party will hold its convention in Cleveland from July 18 to 21, while the Democrats plan to convene a week later in Philadelphia.

This year, the Republican Party will hold its convention in Cleveland, while the Democrats plan to convene in Philadelphia.

What goes down?

The main event is the selection of the party's nominee for president. Yes, there is actually a vote, state-by-state roll call and all. In many recent elections, that vote has been largely a formality, as the front-runner enters the convention with the delegates needed to secure the nomination. But this year's ballot could be a barn burner, especially on the GOP side. Once selected, the party's nominee gives a prime time acceptance speech. The convention is also a chance for campaign surrogates, major party figures, and up-and-coming politicians to get face time on the national stage. Sometimes this goes better than others (think Barack Obama's stirring remarks in Boston back in 2004 vs. Clint Eastwood's empty chair debacle in Tampa circa 2012). Activists, candidates, interest groups, issue-based caucuses, and more hold meetings, events, protests, and lots of parties. Attending a convention can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Elaine Knight, a California delegate who has attended every Democratic National Convention since 1984, described the experience as "four days of just high energy, late nights, and lots of excitement." "Pace yourself. And totally wear comfortable shoes," she said. “You learn a lot, especially if you go to the different caucuses and you listen to the speeches and you see what the new ideas are on different subjects.”
Photos: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock. REX/Shutterstock.
Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and John Kasich.

So how does a brokered convention work?

As we explained above, a brokered or contested convention means no candidate has the votes to win the party's nomination in the first round of voting by delegates. Back in the day, that meant the party bosses would wheel and deal until a candidate emerged. Now, while there's plenty of negotiating and deal-making to be had, the action to watch will be in how the actual delegates vote. Most convention delegates are bound to vote for a specific candidate in the first round of balloting (that mandate is typically based on who won their state or district). But if no candidate hits the threshold to win the nomination on the first ballot, the rules allow some of those previously "bound" delegates to vote for whomever they choose. Even more are freed if there's a third round of voting. “All of a sudden, it's going to be this question of who are the delegates, and who do they actually support, not who were they selected to support," Brown said. "That’s a very interesting question because, in a lot of states, delegates become delegates by being appointed by their party or elected by their party, not necessarily [by] being nominated by the candidate.” There are some existing rules governing who can emerge as the nominee. "Rule 40" on the Republican side, for example, includes a provision saying a candidate needs to win eight states to be eligible for the nomination. But as Brown explains, the party can change the rules essentially up until the last minute. And, on the Democratic side, superdelegates, who are not bound to vote for a specific candidate based on primary and caucus results, could offer up a candidate of their own in the first round to keep one candidate from winning the nomination outright.

"This is what politics is made of — there’s a reason why it's called the art of the possible," Brown said. "Politics is the only game where you play the game, you make the rules, and you adjudicate the results. You’re the player, the referee, and the governing body."

But will it actually happen? And who will be the nominee?

Many observers — and campaigns — think the answer is yes, at least for Republicans. Both Trump and his adversaries are preparing for the possibility. And the political winds don't seem to be blowing as strongly in the front-runner's favor. "The super PACs, and the other candidates, and the many Republicans out there that are basically saying we cannot allow the party to be taken over by Trump are finally having a cumulative effect," Brown said. Ted Cruz's win in Wisconsin, for example, further complicated the math for Trump. And Marco Rubio, who suspended his campaign in March, recently informed the party that he wants to hold onto the delegates he won heading into the convention, instead of releasing them to vote for Trump or another candidate. Even Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus acknowledges that a contested convention could happen. “I think it’s possible and we’re preparing for that possibility,” he said on ABC News' This Week.
There's plenty of speculation surrounding who could emerge as the nominee under this scenario. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is staying in the race in hopes that a brokered convention could help him secure the nod. And some have floated the idea of House Speaker Paul Ryan. Some observers, such as election prognosticator Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, think Cruz would come out on top, even if he enters the convention in second place.

The super PACs, and the other candidates, and the many Republicans out there that are basically saying we cannot allow the party to be taken over by Trump are finally having a cumulative effect.

Lara Brown, George Washington University professor
On the Democratic side, Clinton's overall lead, and the role of the superdelegates make a contested convention much less likely. While the path for victory for Sanders is "exceedingly difficult" — he'd have to win by huge margins in most of the remaining delegate-rich states — Brown said there is at least one scenario, albeit an unlikely one, in which a different nominee could emerge. If the ongoing investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state ends in an indictment, she said, superdelegates backing Clinton could withdraw their support and offer a third candidate into the mix on the convention floor. The last brokered convention, by the way, was for the Democratic nomination in 1952.

This sounds fun. How can I attend one?

There are a few options. If the deadline hasn't passed, and you're a registered member of the party, you can apply or run to become a delegate. Delegates can be anyone from party activists to former contestants on The Bachelor. Contact your state party organization for more information on how to apply or run for a spot. The RNC and DNC, as well as the local host committees and many campaigns and political groups, also recruit volunteers to help run the show. For information on volunteering at the DNC, visit this link. More about opportunities at the RNC can be found here. Knight, who volunteered for decades, recommends that route. “You get more out of it than they do because of the feel-good kind of thing," she said. And if you do attend, arrive prepared to keep your eyes peeled for celebrities — both from the worlds of politics and Hollywood. Knight has had encounters with everyone from her local congressman, to actor Kal Penn. "You never know who you’re going to run into… It could be in the van on the way to the stadium, or it could be at the hot dog stand walking in," she said. “Everyone’s equal when you get to the convention center."

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