Sean Trende

The GOP has required that its nominees receive a majority of the vote from its delegates for 160 years now. And this requirement has been consequential: Along the way, multiple candidates have received a plurality of the vote, yet failed to become the nominee. For example (note: The following percentages are of votes cast, not of the total number of delegates, many of whom would abstain in early rounds): William Seward (1860, 41.5 percent of the vote); James G. Blaine (1876, 45.9 percent); Ulysses S. Grant (1880, 41.3 percent); John Sherman (1888, 33.9 percent); Leonard Wood (1920, 45.5 percent); Frank Lowden (1920, 41.5 percent); Tom Dewey (1940, 36.1 percent). Since 1952, every Republican nomination has been decided on the first ballot.

The common rejoinder I hear is that the will of the people will have been thwarted if Trump wins the most votes, but is not the nominee. This is pure and simple nonsense. There is no expression of the “people’s will” with a plurality of the vote, especially when it is somewhere in the 30 percent range (as Trump’s is).

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