New GOP primary rules helping Trump win nomination

Republican party rule changes backfire as anti-establishment frontrunner reaps benefits of new primary system.

David Rosenberg,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Photo: im Young, Reuters

A series of reforms undertaken by the Republican National Convention following the messy nomination battle in 2012 are likely to benefit New York real estate mogul and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.

The changes, which were intended to make it easier for a Republican frontrunner to quickly seal up the nomination, were made with Mitt Romney’s arduous struggle to the 2012 nomination in mind. Challenges from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum made for a long and contentious primary season which GOP officials believe hurt the eventual nominee in the general election.

Now, as the frontrunner going into the Super Tuesday primary bonanza, Donald Trump is set to reap the benefits of the Republican Party’s structural changes to its nominating process, helping the New York billionaire fend off challenges from Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Primary season this year ends nearly a month earlier than it did in 2012 and, more importantly, the primaries for many states have been bumped up into March. This not only speeds up the nomination process, it increases the number of states voting each day.

That’s particularly important given that many of the states have high voting thresholds. "Super Tuesday" states like Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, for instance, only allocate delegates to candidates winning more than 20% of the statewide vote. Texas divvies up its whopping 155 delegates similarly, awarding them only to winners of congressional districts or those earning more than the 20% threshold. 

The rapid pace of the new primary calendar leaves little time for contenders Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to gain lost ground on Trump. And in the early southern states, establishment favorite Rubio very well may find himself all but shut out of the delegate count, effectively closing off any path to the nomination.

In fact most "Super Tuesday" delegates are awarded in such a way that all but restricts them to the top two candidates, giving the frontrunner extra delegates.

Later states, including large, delegate-rich ones like Ohio, have switched from proportional allocation of delegates to winner-take-all, making them do-or-die states for insurgent candidates looking to make it to the 1,237 delegates necessary to clinch the nomination.