For the last month or so, Donald Trump’s path to 1,237 delegates has been clear: Win Indiana and California. But after his strong showings in the Northeast, Indiana no longer seems to be a must-win state to capture the Republican nomination.
Sure, winning the state would be very helpful toward gaining a majority of delegates. Without Indiana, he would struggle to get the 1,237 bound delegates needed to wrap up the nomination heading into the convention. But there’s now a credible path to winning on the first ballot without it.
The main reason is Mr. Trump’s success on Tuesday among Pennsylvania’s 54 unpledged delegates. Even though none of them are officially bound to a candidate, 31 of the 54 spots went to delegates preferred by Mr. Trump. And before the election, others had said they would vote for the winner of their district (Mr. Trump won all of the state’s districts). My colleague Jeremy W. Peters reported that Mr. Trump “appeared to have won about 40 of Pennsylvania’s 54 unbound delegates.”
Could Trump still lose the nomination? Of course. Events can overtake the best-laid plans and rosiest scenarios. Still, it’s highly unlikely that something like the Cruz-Fiorina ticket is going to have any material effect on the race henceforth.
If this holds, the delegate math is a little different than what you might have read last week here or elsewhere. That’s because my analysis and that of others included only pledged delegates; the 54 unpledged delegates were held out of Mr. Trump’s path to 1,237.
If he has indeed moved many of those delegates off the sideline and into his territory, it obviates the necessity for him to win Indiana, which is worth 57 delegates (30 delegates to the statewide winner and three delegates to the winner of each of nine congressional districts). He would still need a comfortable victory in California — enough to win about 130 of the state’s 172 delegates in the event of a loss in Indiana. He could bring that figure as low as 115 with good outcomes in West Virginia, Oregon, Washington and New Mexico, or with a few additional districts in Indiana.
The 130-delegate target in California is achievable…
Color me as surprised as anyone that Trump has gotten this far. But he has, and there’s no use pretending otherwise, no matter how much you may love Ted Cruz or despise The Donald. It’s certainly fine, even admirable, for the Cruz forces to fight on to the bitter end, but at some point — perhaps as early as next week — the fight will be over.