Politics & Policy

Note to Convention Delegates: Nominating Trump Is Political Suicide

(Darren McCollester/Getty)

On Monday, July 18, the Republican National Convention’s 2,472 delegates will gather in Cleveland, Ohio, and decide whether or not to save the party from a catastrophic loss in November.

If 1,237 of them agree on Donald Trump, he will be the nominee. And if he is the nominee, he will likely be slaughtered by Hillary Clinton.

Both the Washington Post/ABC News and Gallup polls have found Trump to be the most unpopular potential presidential nominee in decades. The Post’s summary is succinct and brutal: “Three-quarters of women view him unfavorably. So do nearly two-thirds of independents, 80 percent of young adults, 85 percent of Hispanics and nearly half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.” Such widespread unpopularity is reflected in head-to-head polls of a potential Trump vs. Clinton matchup, where Trump’s numbers have gotten worse of late: What was a three-point deficit in the Real Clear Politics average just one month ago has now stretched to nearly eleven points.

As of now, there is little reason to think that Trump would beat Clinton in any of the key swing states, either. He consistently trails her in Ohio. In Florida, one poll in the past month puts him ahead by one point, but two others have her comfortably ahead. She leads two of the last three polls in North Carolina. And every poll shows her handily beating him in Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

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It gets worse. In addition to predicting Trump would lose every swing state, the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato argues that nominating Trump would put several red states in play. “Four normally Republican states (Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, and Missouri) would be somewhat less secure for the GOP than usual,” he writes.

#share#Realize, this is the reality Trump faces before Clinton’s campaign, her allied Super PACs, or liberal interest groups have even started running negative ads against him. Perhaps Democrats will conclude that attack ads against Trump are unnecessary — that, when the Republican front-runner is pledging to punish women who get abortions, defending a campaign manager charged with battery, threatening the end of NATO, and mocking the appearance of his chief rival’s wife, he is his own best counter-argument. But it doesn’t seem likely, and it probably wouldn’t make a huge difference: Trump offers Republicans a near-certain landslide loss with potential down-ticket consequences regardless.

RELATED: Yes, the Delegates Can Decide

The numbers for Ted Cruz nationally and in these swing states are somewhat better, and Clinton remains a flawed, weak candidate. Is it really that hard to choose between a small chance of victory with Cruz and the political self-immolation that comes from nominating Trump?

It’s impossible to project delegate counts in the remaining contests precisely, but the odds are pretty good that Trump will enter Cleveland with 1100 to 1200 delegates — just shy of the 1,237 he needs.

#related#Rules vary by state, but most Republican convention delegates are only required to vote for the candidate to whom they’ve been bound through the first or second ballot. There are 112 delegates from North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, American Samoa and Guam, chosen by the state conventions, who are ‘unbound’ and not committed to any candidate. They’re free to vote for whomever they like when they arrive in Cleveland.

The delegates do not have to choose to treat Trump’s plurality of the primary vote as a political suicide pact. Yes, roughly 37 percent of Republican primary voters entered this primary season and eagerly picked the one man who nullifies all of Hillary Clinton’s weaknesses — the one man who could make the scandal-tainted, perpetually dishonest, arrogant, and entitled former Secretary of State look like an electoral juggernaut. There is no reason for convention delegates entrusted with formally selecting a nominee to ratify that colossal misjudgment. If 1,237 of them do, despite all of the evidence that Trump is electoral poison, they will be remembered as the ones who grabbed the wheel and madly veered the party back over a cliff.

— Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent for National Review.

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