Just a minor update. I think that Mr. Trump currently has a 63% chance of winning on the first ballot, though only about a 16% of actually getting to 1,237 delegates by the end of the primaries[a]. So there’s a 37% of going 2 or more ballots at the convention. Wow!
And that’s where things get freaky. Stat-head conventional wisdom is that it would be very hard for Mr. Trump to win the nomination, if he doesn’t do so on the first ballot, since after that (most) delegates are released from having to vote in line with the primary results, and the delegates tend to be party functionaries who are not fond of Mr. Trump[b]. I agree with my fellow stat-heads, though with one small qualification to which I’ll return. The second and, perhaps, the third ballot would be Sen. Cruz’s big opportunities. My best guess is that Sen. Cruz has about a 75% chance of landing the sale during the 2nd or 3rd ballots. I’m not quite sure where I’m getting that number, but 3-to-1 sounds about right. If anyone has a better idea, I’d love to hear it. Anyway, that gives Sen. Cruz a 28% chance at winning the nomination.
If we go past the 3rd ballot, we’re officially through the looking glass, and I don’t know what happens next. But that won’t stop me from taking a guess or two! If Sen. Cruz fails to cobble together support on the 3rd ballot, I think he is greatly weakened and has no more than a 5% chance of winning on subsequent ballots. Mr. Trump probably comes back into play as well since he can make the case that Sen. Cruz was just a usurper, and after the failed coup, the crown should go to the true king. His odds of pulling that off can’t be much better (or worse) than those of Sen. Cruz at that point. Finally, the possibility of a white knight is on the table: Gov. Romney, Speaker Ryan, Cthulhu – why vote for the less evil?[c].
Complicating matters somewhat is the possibility that the white knight might be Sen. Rubio or even Gov. Bush. For the moment, I’m going to ignore those possibilities (which I think are very unlikely). So that leaves us with the following:
- Mr. Trump: 65% (=63%+(%5*37%))
- Sen Cruz: 29%(=(37%75%)+(5%*37%))
- None of the above: 6% (=37%*15%)
[b] http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/its-probably-first-ballot-or-bust-for-donald-trump-at-the-gop-convention/ – This piece is must reading for making sense of the muddle that is the Republican nomination process.