After Donald Trump began racking up big victories deep into the Republican primary election, there was a widespread call for his remaining challengers to clear the field and let one person consolidate the anti-Trump vote. Those calls intensified briefly when the field was whittled down to its current three, with more than a little anger Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who hadn’t won anywhere but his home state.
Those calls have been muted recently though, as the GOP seemed to accept that Kasich was in it for the duration, regardless of his mathematical elimination from the race for the 1,237 delegates needed for a first-ballot majority.
However, in an interview recorded for journalist David Gregory’s podcast, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the GOP’s most recent presidential nominee, predicted that unless either Kasich or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gets out of the race, the GOP will have to face the prospect of Trump being nominated on the first ballot at the party’s convention in Cleveland this July.
“If it remains three candidates I think Mr. Trump gets it on the first ballot,” he said.
Asked by Gregory about the prospects for a contested convention, in which there is no presumptive nominee coming in, Romney said, “I think that depends on whether Mr. Cruz and Mr. Kasich stay in the race aggressively through California. If they’re both going at it aggressively right until the very end, then I think it’s very likely that Mr. Trump wins on the first ballot.
“I say that because I think Cruz and Kasich divide the vote, if you will, and that would make it easier for Mr. Trump to win the winner-take-all Congressional districts and the winner-take-all states and to get the delegates he needs either to reach the 1,237 or to get close enough to it that he could persuade the uncommitted delegates he’d need to get the victory on the first ballot.
“On the other hand, if either Mr. Cruz or Mr. Kasich decides to become inactive, if you will, after New York, then I think it’s likely we get to a contested convention.”
In a contested convention, he said, he believes all three of the remaining candidates has a legitimate shot at the nomination.
However, he added, if Trump finishes the primaries close to a majority, he might be able to seal the deal before the convention by appealing to the hundreds of delegates who will come to the convention uncommitted and able vote for the candidate of their choice on the first ballot.
“My guess is that some delegates might like to fly around on Air Trump, or get a membership to Mar-a-Lago,” Romney said, referring to Trump’s private airplane and his exclusive golf resort in Florida. Trump, he said, has quite a few “ways to be persuasive” Romney said, and picking off 50 or 100 delegates shouldn’t be too difficult.
Romney never said which of the candidates he thinks ought to become “inactive.” He voted for Cruz in Utah, but made it clear that it was not an endorsement. He was simply heeding the same advice that he gave to his fellow Republicans in a controversial speech last month, sharply criticizing Trump and urging them vote for whichever candidate in their state had the best chance to beat the billionaire.
The former GOP standard-bearer was also asked about the Republican delegate selection process -- something Trump has insisted is “rigged” against him.
The rules are complicated, Romney conceded, but they are also transparent for campaigns that bother to study them, which Trump’s evidently did not.
“By the way, there’s probably nothing wrong with making it difficult,” Romney added. “If you want to be president you are going to have to deal with things a lot more complicated than Republican delegate rules.”