I learned a new word today, and it’s “preconvention”[a]. Until now, I had assumed that only the following states of nature were salient:
- Some candidate wins at least 1,237 of the delegates by the last primary, and the nomination goes, in the first ballot, to that candidate.
- No candidate wins at least 1,237 of the delegates after the last primary, and no candidate wins the nomination in the first ballot at the convention.
Not so. There is a period of about 6 weeks between the last primary (June 7) and the convention (July 18) during which candidates can lobby delegates. So, to take one example, Mr. Trump might fall short of 1,237 delegates in early June but still secure enough delegates before July 18 in order to be nominated on the first ballot at the convention in Cleveland. Put another way, there are really 3, not 2, salient states of nature:
- Some candidate wins at least 1,237 of the delegates by the last primary, and the nomination goes, on the first ballot, to that candidate.
- No candidate wins at least 1,237 of the delegates after the last primary, and no candidate wins the nomination on the first ballot.
- No candidate wins at least 1,237 of the delegates after the last primary, but some candidate secures enough delegates – by hook or by crook – before the convention to be nominated on the first ballot.
As before, I assign a probability of 0.68 to State 1, with Mr. Trump (ca. 0.98) being far more likely than Senator Cruz (ca. 0.02) to be the victor, should we find ourselves in this state. And I am increasingly convinced that this process will go down to the wire though[b]. (This fact has relevance for the GJ question about when Senator Cruz will drop out: He probably won’t!)
That leaves a probability space of 0.32 for the disjunction of States 2 and 3. I honestly have no idea how to divide up this probability space, so I’m going to fall back on the principle of insufficient reason and just cut it in half. I think we’ll have a better idea soon, but it’s just too early to make anything more accurate than a stab in the dark. By the way, if I were a member of the #nevertrump Republican elite, I’d be working very hard to make sure that the people who are selected as delegates[c] are not the sort who are easily swayed by the prospect of gold-plated steaks[d] or whatever the kids are into these days. On a side note, if Mr. Trump cannot secure the nomination during the pre-convention stage (should it come to that), I think he enters the convention considerably weakened. His schtick is that he’s a “master negotiator”[e]. But if he gets about 1,100 delegates and still can’t seal the deal during the six-week pre-convention, then the bloom’s off the rose.
Anyway, I now estimate the current probability that a candidate will be successfully nominated on the first ballot to be 0.84 (=0.68+(0.32/2)).