Charting a course around a Trump nomination

What’s more important, however, is delegate psychology. Some argue, in defiance of the rules, that Trump should be the nominee even if he fails to reach 1,237. My Fox News colleague Sean Hannity says he “will support whoever gets the most delegates,” which, given the math, means he will support Trump, no matter what.

That sentiment might be compelling with a narrow shortfall. But if Trump misses the mark by, say, 150 delegates, that would be significantly more than the delegate totals of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina combined. It’s one thing to deny the trophy to the guy who finished a few yards shy of the finish line. It’s another if he misses it by a mile. The bigger the shortfall, the easier it is to persuade delegates that they are not defying the popular will by denying Trump, particularly given the widespread conviction that Trump would be crushed in a general election (with the GOP being torn apart in the process).

Cruz would be the most likely victor in a floor fight, but that isn’t assured. The longer the balloting goes, the more likely it is that the bitter and bleary-eyed delegates will opt to order off-menu. That’s what Kasich is allegedly counting on. But Kasich is widely disliked, and it might be a good deal easier to find a unifying candidacy in, say, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Nikki Haley, or Mike Pence.

The third option is what The Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol calls “Plan B.” If the #NeverTrumpers fail to stop Trump at the convention, they could rally around an independent candidate. Who might that be? That’s the billion-dollar question. Some want a true outsider like retired Marine General James Mattis. Others think Mitt Romney could leap into the breach. The path to an independent candidacy is perilous. But if you’re of the opinion that Trump and Hillary Clinton aren’t acceptable options, the perilous path is the only one available.