Donald Trump has all but secured the Republican presidential nomination with the departure of Ted Cruz and John Kasich from the race, but to formally lock-in the nomination, the real estate mogul turned reality TV star must still win 184 delegates in the remaining batch of primary elections.
It’s a formality that political experts say Trump should have no problem meeting before the party’s nominating convention in July — even in a primary season dominated by talk of blocking his nomination with a contested convention.
Trump’s pivotal victory in Indiana on Tuesday cleared the GOP field once and for all, by upending Cruz and Kasich’s effort to keep Trump from from securing the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination.
The win boosted Trump’s delegate count to 1,053 delegates putting him in position to cross the delegate threshold with the combined 445 delegates up for grabs in primary elections to be held between May 10 and June 7. But it will take until the five GOP primaires on June 7 — Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and California — to get to 1,237.
With Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus calling for the party to “unite” behind Trump, there seems to be little else standing in the way of Trump securing the nomination, said Meena Bose, director of Hofstra University’s Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency.
“I don’t think many people were expecting that Donald Trump would be the last person left standing, but it appears the party is slowly coalescing around his candidacy,” Bose said. “Even in an election year full of surprises, it’s still difficult for me to see a path for another candidate to secure the nomination. It would involve some very complicated political machinations.”
With Trump no longer focusing his efforts on a three-way primary race, he will likely use the time leading up to the convention to build relationships among Republican leaders who have opposed or been skeptical of his candidacy, Bose said.
“There’s a lot more work for Donald Trump to do within his party,” Bose said. “His support in the Republican party continues to be less than 50 percent . . . to really engage the Republican party, particularly the party elite he has to make some effort toward building relationships.”
Shana Kushner Gadarian, an assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, said as Trump pivots from the primary to the general election, he will likely make select appearances in the remaining primary states, using those campaign events to unleash his attacks against Clinton.
“We will start to see the race come into focus in a way that we haven’t been able to when there were 17 people, or 10 people, or four people in the race,” Gadarian said.
Meanwhile, in the Democratic race, political analysts say Bernie Sanders’ narrow victory over Clinton in Indiana did little to erode the former secretary of state’s delegate lead and chances of securing the nomination.
Clinton has secured 2,205 of the 2,383 overall delegates required to secure the Democratic nomination. Sanders has 1,401 after picking up 43 of Indiana’s 83 Democratic delegates.
The senator from Vermont has said he will narrow the gap, by persuading so-called superdelegates — some 700 party leaders who are free to support the nominee of their choice — to back his candidacy. He contends superdelegates from the states that he has won should support his bid.
Experts say Sanders faces an uphill slog to sway superdelegates who have endorsed Clinton by an 18-1 margin. Of the 718 superdelegates heading to the party’s July convention, 520 have said they will support Clinton, compared to 39 for Sanders, and 160 have not publically endorsed.
“It’s an ironic turn for a campaign that has argued the superdelegate system is undemocratic,” Gadarian said.
Bose said “it’s a very unlikely scenario” that Sanders will flip enough superdelegates and win enough of the remaining primary states when polls show him trailing Clinton in Montana, New Jersey and delegate-rich California, where 546 delegates are at play