Connecticut’s top Republican could wind up being a kingmaker for Donald Trump.
If the real estate mogul has the delegate lead going into the GOP’s national convention — but not the majority required by party rules — he should still get the presidential nomination, said J.R. Romano, the state Republican Party chairman.
“If he has the most delegates, that’s personally how I feel it should be,” Romano said. “I believe that’s how it should work.”
Romano is a member of the Republican National Committee’s rule-making body and could serve in a similar capacity for the party’s national convention in Cleveland this summer.
In contrast to recent party conclaves at which the nomination was a foregone conclusion, this time the rules committee could find itself refereeing a brokered convention between Trump and anti-Trump GOP factions.
Key role for Connecticut
Trump needs 1,237 delegates to capture the Republican presidential nomination.
The magic number represents a majority of the total delegates up for grabs in the primaries and caucuses held in the 50 states and U.S. territories.
But with Cruz leading in the polls in Wisconsin, which holds its primary April 5, and with many upcoming states such as Connecticut awarding delegates on a proportional basis, Trump’s path to the nomination is uncertain. Connecticut holds its primary April 26.
“I don’t think Trump has a majority of the party behind him,” said Bob MacGuffie, a Tea Party stalwart from Fairfield who is leading the volunteer effort in the state for Cruz. “I think it may very well go to the convention.”
Trump’s supporters in the state say the billionaire should be able to hit the mark.
“If one candidate comes in with an enormous lead and is within spitting distance of the finish, it’s highly likely he’ll be the nominee,” said Jim Campbell, Greenwich’s former Republican Town Committee chairman. “I think that’s simply political reality.”
Each of the state’s five congressional districts counts for three delegates, which are awarded on a winner-take-all basis. The remaining delegates are awarded on proportional basis, unless a candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote statewide.
MacGuffie said it would be a travesty if Republicans snub both Cruz and Trump at the convention.
“I think it would be absurd if the old political bulls and cardinals tried to put somebody else forward,” he said. “They’ll have a total revolt. I think the Cruz people will accept it if Trump ends up winning and I think the Trump people will accept it if Cruz ends of winning.”
Romano said it’s purely speculative that GOP leaders could reduce the delegate threshold from 1,237.
“I think rules do matter,” he said.
‘An open discussion’
Under GOP rules, a candidate must win eight states to have his or her name put into nomination at the convention, up from five states previously.
There is some talk in the GOP of going back to five states, according to Romano, who said the requirement would not likely affect the current race. Trump has won 19 states to eight for Cruz and one for Kasich, whose lone victory came in his home state of Ohio.
“If no one gets to that number, then it is an open discussion of who is the best candidate to win the general election,” Hwang said. “That’s why I think in my heart that Governor Kasich is a very strong and viable candidate.”
Compared to Trump and Cruz in swing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida, Hwang said Kasich matches up much more favorably against Democrat Hillary Clinton in general election polling.
Hwang said Connecticut Republicans have a major opportunity to influence who represents the party in November.
“For the first time in a long time, we’re going to make Connecticut matter in the presidential election,” Hwang said.