Wisconsin Primary: Donald Trump's Path Won't Lead To The GOP Nomination Anytime Soon It's mathematically impossible for Donald Trump to get a majority of delegates until the last day of GOP primary voting in June. Wisconsin voters could make it harder to get a majority at all.
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Trump's Path Won't Lead To The GOP Nomination Anytime Soon

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Trump's Path Won't Lead To The GOP Nomination Anytime Soon

Trump's Path Won't Lead To The GOP Nomination Anytime Soon

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The most important number in presidential politics right now is 1,237. That's the number of delegates a Republican candidate needs to win the party's presidential nomination on the first ballot at the convention in July. It's the number needed to avoid the first contested floor fight in more than half a century. Donald Trump is the candidate with the best chance to win the delegates he needs, but as NPR's Scott Detrow reports, there is little room for error.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: When former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson spoke to a party dinner in Milwaukee last week, he got right to the point.

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TOMMY THOMPSON: I'm here to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, there is no candidate that is going to have enough delegate votes going into Ohio to get the nomination. We are going to have a contested convention.

DETROW: Thompson may be right. As Republicans head to their convention in Cleveland this July, the party is closer to a floor fight than it's been in 40 years. But frontrunner Donald Trump still can get the delegates he needs to lock up the nomination.

GEOFFREY SKELLEY: What our estimates show is that it's possible, but it's also very possible that he could be stopped.

DETROW: That's Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia. They've run the numbers and put together a projection that has Trump getting the delegates he needs with a whole two extra to spare. But here's the thing. Those projections assume Trump wins Wisconsin, and right now, Ted Cruz is ahead in the polls.

SKELLEY: If someone not named Donald Trump can win statewide in Wisconsin, that runs counter to how we sort of gamed it out. Suddenly it's very questionable if he can get over the majority hump if he loses statewide.

DETROW: Which is why both Cruz and Trump have blanketed Wisconsin in recent days. The main chunk of the state's Republican voters live in the suburbs around Milwaukee, but both Trump and Cruz have been everywhere - Eau Claire, Ashwabuenon, Kenosha, La Crosse, Janesville. That's because of the way this state will award its 42 delegates. The statewide winner will get 18 of them. The rest are given to the winner of each congressional district, as Charles Franklin of the Marquette University Law School poll explains.

CHARLES FRANKLIN: You know, when you have a statewide race that's essentially winner-take-all in the state, it doesn't matter where you get your votes from. But in this congressional-district-based allocation of delegates, it means you need to do well all over the place.

DETROW: If Trump gets no delegates in Wisconsin tomorrow, he would need to claim 56 percent of the delegates in all the remaining contests. That's a steep climb for Trump, but for Cruz, it's nearly impossible. He needs the claim more than 80 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch a first-ballot nomination himself. Cruz's best chance then is to keep Trump below 1,237 and fight for a nomination in Cleveland. That's why the weekend before the critical Wisconsin vote...

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TED CRUZ: God bless the great state of North Dakota.

DETROW: Cruz was in Fargo, where North Dakota Republicans are voting on the delegates they'll sent to Cleveland.

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CRUZ: It is entirely possible the men and women gathered here will decide this entire primary, will decide this nomination.

DETROW: Trump's campaign is preparing for a floor fight, too. Trump is arguing that even if he doesn't clinch the majority of delegates, he deserves the nomination because he's gotten the most votes.

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DONALD TRUMP: We have millions of votes more than Cruz, millions of votes more than Kasich.

DETROW: But that's not how it works. The only way for Trump to secure the nomination before the convention is to get those 1,237 delegates. And looking at the primary calendar, it's clear we should all sit tight. Mathematically, there's no way Trump will be able to cross that threshold until the primary contest on June 7. That means he won't have a chance to put the rest talk of a messy floor fight until the very last day of the Republican primaries. Scott Detrow, NPR News.

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