Wednesday, March 30, 2016




          Donald Trump is about to become a major presence all around California. So are Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, both of whom want to stop the Trump express and force an open Republican National Convention in July on Kasich’s home turf in Cleveland.

          Helping them out might be two arcane GOP convention rules adopted in 2012 that may mean Trump needs most of the 172 Republican delegates up for grabs here. This makes California’s very late-in-the-process June primary election more significant than it’s been since 1972, when Democrat George McGovern used it to secure his party’s nomination.

          But Trump might not have things quite so easy as did McGovern, who won all California’s delegates despite taking the primary by only a narrow margin. That outcome was a big reason Democrats later went to proportional representation for all their presidential primaries, with each state’s delegates doled out according to the results of its primary or caucus.

          Trump may in fact need most of the GOP’s much-reduced California delegation to get the convention majority he’s been working for. (The GOP’s voting California delegation of 172 persons is down somewhat from the 350 delegates and alternates of Ronald Reagan’s heyday. The state party’s national clout diminishes when it loses an election for governor, U.S. Senate or President, and also when the GOP fails to win the majority of the state’s congressional delegation or the Legislature.)

          No one is likely to get all the California delegates, as Reagan and George H.W. Bush both did. That’s because most delegates now are elected by congressional district, with the statewide GOP winner getting 13 and the rest going three at a time to the winners in each of the 53 districts.

          Chances are, Cruz and Kasich will pick off at least a few districts, and maybe more, even if Trump should win statewide.

          That might make Trump’s weakness among establishment Republicans a key factor. They have tried mightily to derail his candidacy; that establishment also wrote many of the party convention’s key rules.

          Two of those rules, Numbers 16 (d)(2) and 16(d)(3), were adopted by the GOP convention in 2012 and have never before applied: The rules’ Byzantine legalese may amount to this: Some lawyers interpret the abstruse and lengthy language to mean you can’t be seated as a delegate if you come from a state where voters who are not registered Republicans can vote in the GOP primary. (

          That won’t happen in California, where voters registered with no party preference have long been welcomed in Democratic presidential primaries, but not by the Republicans.

          There are plenty of other states where the GOP allows this, like Arkansas, Massachusetts and Illinois, which gave Trump pluralities.

          There’s also a complication in Missouri, where Trump has been reported to have won 25 delegates to 15 for Cruz. But Missouri gives five GOP delegates to the winner of each of eight congressional districts and 12 to the statewide winner. Trouble is, votes are usually counted and reported by county and not by congressional district. Depending on what Missouri’s Democratic secretary of state chooses to do, at least some Trump delegates could be challenged in Cleveland.

          This means, writes former Trump aide Roger Stone on the Infowars website, that party leaders may “have found a way to lie, cheat and steal Trump out of enough delegates to force a second ballot.” And if the convention goes to two ballots or more, no delegate will be bound to vote for anyone.

          Meanwhile, there will be no courts to interpret the convention rules. All rules get whatever meaning a majority of delegates who have survived all challenges and been seated choose to give them, by majority vote.

          The meaning for Trump in California should be this: If he does not fight in every district for each delegate threesome, he might be left without enough unquestioned delegates to beat back legalistic challenges and interpretations made by convention committees influenced by the establishment that so reviles him.

          It might just be, therefore, that only California can prevent utter chaos in Cleveland – and the riots Trump has mentioned as a possibility if his nomination is somehow thwarted.

Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to

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