A talking point that’s not quite fully serious yet not quite trolling either. Two words, my friends: Rigged system.
In fact, Cruz won more votes in the Wisconsin primary — 531,129 — than Trump appears to have won in New York. With 98 percent of precincts counted, Trump has 518,601 votes in his home state. On the other hand, Trump will win at least 90 of New York’s 95 delegates to Cruz’s zero; in Wisconsin, Cruz’s big victory earned him 36 delegates, to Trump’s six.
With 99 percent reporting this morning, Trump’s now at 522,000 and change in New York. If you don’t like the Wisconsin comparison, we can do home-state comparisons instead. In Texas, Cruz got 104 delegates, about 15 more than Trump will get out of New York, despite pulling in more than twice the number of popular votes (1.2 million) that Trump did last night — and Cruz did it back when the field was bigger and he had to compete with Marco Rubio for conservative support. In Ohio, Kasich won 66 delegates on the strength of 950,000 votes, which means he got fewer delegates than Trump got last night despite topping his New York vote haul by 400,000 votes. In Texas and Ohio, Trump himself received more popular votes (around 750,000 in each) than he received in New York and won a grand total of 48 delegates for his trouble. In fact, thanks to the delegate “bonuses” that state and district winners receive, Trump overall is actually receiving slightly more delegates per percentage point of the popular vote he gets (1.22) than Cruz is (1.14). Shouldn’t every vote count equally?
Cruz isn’t complaining, though, because he knows (as does Rush Limbaugh) that the time to question whether delegates are being awarded correctly was before the primaries began, not in a fit of strategic petulance after you’ve gotten an outcome that you don’t like. I think Trump’s whining about the unfairness of the process is useful, though, to the extent it makes Republican voters think harder about how we should pick the nominee going forward. We could have the simplest possible system: No more delegates or majority requirements. Whoever gets the most popular votes across 50 states is the nominee. We could keep the system we have now, or something like it: Award a certain number of delegates per congressional district (either a fixed number or proportional based on population) plus bonus delegates based on the state’s overall population. The problem with that is that it rewards candidates for winning big states even if they’re not competitive states. The Republican nominee’s going to win Texas no matter who it is (I think) so why give Cruz a big delegate windfall for winning there? The Republican nominee’s going to lose New York, badly, no matter who it is — yes, really, Trump fans, despite your fondest fantasies — so why give Trump a delegate windfall for winning there? An alternative system would be to apply extra delegates to swing states like Ohio and Florida and give bonuses depending on turnout. Granted, high turnout in a primary is no guarantee of high turnout in the general, but it’s at least a gesture towards nominating the candidate who’d be most electable in the general.
Anyway. I think Cruzers and Trumpers each have a case for why last night was important or not. For Team Cruz, the spin is simple: Trump did exactly how he was expected to do. Read Michael Brendan Dougherty and Jeremy Carl for that argument at length. Everyone knew Trump was going to kick ass in New York, just like everyone knows he’s going to kick ass next week in the mid-Atlantic states. All of the estimates about whether he’ll make it to 1,237 before the convention assume blowouts for Trump this week and next, which means that next week matters in deciding the nomination only if he underperforms somewhere, which might be fatal to his chances. Says Carl:
The real final charge for the nomination begins not next week in the Northeast, but the following week in Indiana, the first of the final ten states to vote on ground that is much more favorable to Cruz. In fact, Cruz is favored in most of the last ten states, with only New Jersey and (narrowly) California falling into the Trump column.
But that brings us to Trumpers’ spin: What if Cruz underperforms in one of those final few states he’s supposed to win? What if last night’s distant third-place finish, behind even John Kasich for cripes sake, signals to undecideds in upcoming states that Cruz is a paper tiger and they’re better off sticking with Trump? Read John Podhoretz and Matt Lewis for that argument. “Momentum” is overrated — compare Cruz’s supposedly big win in Wisconsin to how he did last night — but a series of bad defeats for Cruz while Trump is out on the trail pointing out that he’s been mathematically eliminated from clinching a majority before the convention could shift enough persuadable voters against him to give Trump the votes he needs in Indiana and California to get 1,237 — or 1,200, or 1,180. Remember, in the unlikely event that you’d forgotten, that there will be several hundred unbound delegates up for grabs even on the first ballot in Cleveland, which means that Trump may be able to win even if he’s shy of 1,237 the day after California votes. Given the ferocious blue-state beating Cruz just took last night and looks set to take next week, how confident is he really that he can hold Trump down in Cali? See now why it’s not altogether a bad thing for Cruz that John Kasich, a more appealing candidate to blue-staters, is still in the race?
Exit quotation from Ben Shapiro, summing up last night’s outcome for anti-Trumpers everywhere: “The Smartest, Toughest People In The World™ voted overwhelmingly for a loudmouth braggart liar con man who whines about how mean Ted Cruz is to New Yorkers for suggesting they are leftists who vote for loudmouth braggart liar con men.”