Undeniable Delegate Numbers Could Mean Trump Is Now Unbeatable — Here’s How the Math Works

Even if Super Tuesday turns out not to be super for GOP front-runner Donald Trump, the business mogul still has the opportunity to cash in on a lot of delegates from the 11 states that are voting.

While each state has its own guidelines for how delegates are divvied up, according to the Republican National Committee’s regulations, its rare that a single candidate would be able to sweep all of one state’s delegates. In fact, most states have a certain threshold for their delegates, meaning a candidate would have to take, in some cases, more than 50 percent of the state’s vote in the primary in order to obtain all of the delegates.

Ahead of Super Tuesday, Trump is ahead in the polls in all but two states — Texas and Arkansas —  according to Real Clear Politics’ aggregated polling data. Trump also leads with the current number of total delegates with 82 after the four early primaries, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with 17, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with 16, Ohio Gov. John Kasich with six and Dr. Ben Carson with four.

Screen grab via Bloomberg Politics
Screen grab via Bloomberg Politics

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who ended his campaign after underperforming in South Carolina last week, also has four delegates, which he picked up from the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary.

By far, Texas has the most delegates up for grabs (155) and that is a state where Cruz seems to be holding steady in first place, according to polls. The other 10 states combined make up a total of 440 delegates. Cruz is also polling higher in Arkansas, a state with 40 delegates up for grabs.

Even still, because of how the states divvy up their delegates, Trump could still walk away with a nice chunk of delegates from Arkansas and Texas, depending on how he finishes. For example, in Texas, only if a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote does he obtain all of its delegates. Otherwise, the delegates are split up proportionally based on a 20 percent threshold.

Arkansas has a similar system, although its at-large delegates and congressional district delegates are determined slightly differently. The at-large delegates, like Texas, are based on a proportional system that begins with a 15 percent threshold with every candidate reaching that mark given one delegate unless a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the statewide vote; then, that candidate receives all the delegates. If there is no majority winner, then the remaining at-large delegates are allocated proportionally among those who reached the threshold.

Below is a more detailed breakdown of each state that participates on Super Tuesday and how its delegates are split, according to RNC guidelines: 

Alabama (50 delegates)

Alabama’s delegates are decided differently among at-large and congressional district delegates. At-large delegates are based on a statewide vote with a 20 percent threshold. If no candidate reaches that threshold, then it becomes directly proportional. However, if a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the statewide vote, that candidate goes on to receive all of the AL delegates. Congressional district delegates are proportional based on the district vote with a 20 percent threshold. The highest vote-getter receives two delegates and the second-highest vote-getter receives just one. If only one candidate reaches that 20 percent threshold, then that candidate receives all three CD delegates (there are 21 total CD delegates for the state’s seven congressional districts).  However, if no candidate reaches that 20 percent threshold, it becomes directly proportional. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the congressional district vote, that candidate receives all three of the CD delegates.

RealClearPolitics has Trump up in Alabama by an average of 21 points. A recently released poll by Master Image has Trump ahead by 17 points. According to AL.com, the Madison County Republican Men’s Club in Huntsville conducted a straw poll over the weekend. With more than 200 votes, Cruz narrowly won the poll, followed by Trump, Rubio, Carson and Kasich. 

Alaska (28 delegates)

Delegates are proportional based on a statewide vote with a 13 percent threshold.

As Bloomberg Politics noted, Alaska is one of the least religious states in the U.S. — only 62 percent of the state identifies as Christian. Former Gov. Sarah Palin, also a former vice presidential candidate, has endorsed Trump for president, but she remains a controversial figure in the state.

The latest Alaska Dispatch poll showed Trump ahead of Cruz by only four points, 28 percent to 24 percent.

Arkansas (40 delegates)

At-large delegates are proportional based on a statewide vote with a 15 percent threshold. Every candidate that reaches that 15 percent threshold would receive one candidate. After that, if a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the statewide vote, then they are allocated the remaining AL delegates. If there is no majority winner, then the remaining AL delegates are allocated proportionally among candidates who reached that 15 percent threshold. Congressional district delegates are proportional based on district vote with no threshold. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the CD vote, that candidate receives all three district delegates (there are 12 total CD delegates). However, if 50 percent is not reached, the highest vote-getter will receive two delegates and the second-highest vote-getter would receive just one.

A recent Talk Business/Hendrix College poll also Cruz ahead of Trump by four points, 27 percent to 23 percent, in the heavily socially conservative state.

Georgia (76 delegates)

Delegates are broken up based on a proportional basis with a 20 percent threshold. If no candidate reaches 20 percent, then it is lowered to 15 percent. If no candidate reaches 15 percent, it is lowered to 10 percent. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent, that candidate receives all of Georgia’s 76 delegates.

Sam Wang, founder of the Princeton Election Consortium blog, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he predicts Trump will receive between 40 and 50 delegates. 

The RCP polling average has Trump up 13.8 points over Rubio.

Massachusetts (42 delegates) 

Delegates are proportional based on statewide vote with a 5 percent threshold.

According to Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, Massachusetts has a relatively ideologically moderate electorate, which could be helpful for candidates such as Kasich and Rubio.

Trump is leading the RCP aggregated polls in the state by 26.8 points over Rubio, but other candidates can have a good chance to pick up delegates as well. 

Minnesota (38 delegates)

Delegates are proportional based on statewide vote with a 10 percent threshold. However, should a candidate receive more than 85 percent of the vote, the candidate would receive all of the delegates.

The most recent poll, which was conducted by the Star Tribune back in mid-January, has Rubio in the lead by only 2.

Oklahoma (43 delegates)

Like some other states on Super Tuesday, Oklahoma’s AL and CD delegates are awarded differently. At-large delegates are proportional based on a statewide vote with a 15 percent threshold. However, if a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the statewide vote, that candidate will receive all of the AL delegates. Congressional district delegates are awarded proportionally based on the district vote with a 15 percent threshold. If only one candidate receives more than 15 percent, the candidate will receive all three CD delegates (there are 15 total for the state’s 5 congressional districts). If two candidates receive more than 15 percent each, the highest vote-getter receives two delegates and the second highest vote-getter receives just one. If three or more candidates receive more than 15 percent, the top three candidates each receive one delegate each. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the congressional district vote, that candidate will receive all three CD delegates.

The RCP polling average in the state shows Trump with an 11.4-point lead over Rubio. Pollster Pat McFerron told NewsOK that, despite Trump’s lead in the state, there is a “statistical tie among the top three candidates among the most reliable primary voters.”

Tennessee (58 delegates)

At-large delegates are proportional based on a statewide vote with a 20 percent threshold. If no candidate reaches that threshold, then it becomes directly proportional. If a candidate receives more than 66 percent of the statewide vote, than that candidate receives all of the AL delegates. Congressional district delegates are proportional based on district vote with a 20 percent threshold. If a candidate receives more than 66 percent of the district vote, that candidate receives all three CD delegates (there are 27 CD delegates at stake). If the winner receives between 20 and 66 percent of the vote in a district, the highest vote-getter receives two delegates and the second-highest vote-getter receives just one, unless the second-place candidate receives less than 20 percent of the vote. In that case, the first-place candidate receives all three CD delegates. If no candidate reaches that 20 percent, then the top three candidates receive one delegate each.

According to the Tennessean, Trump’s big win in South Carolina was indicative that the business mogul could do well in the “Bible Belt,” including in Tennessee where he was already leading. However, former conservative talk show host Steve Gill told the Tennesseean that the state’s past history with extremely evangelical candidates (Santorum and Huckabee over Romney and McCain), Cruz shouldn’t be ruled out quite yet. 

A late-February NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has Trump up 18 points over Cruz, 40 percent to 22 percent.

Texas (155 delegates)

Delegates are broken up based on a proportional basis with a 20 percent threshold. If no candidate reaches 20 percent, then it is lowered to 15 percent. If no candidate reaches 15 percent, it is lowered to 10 percent. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent, that candidate receives all of Texas’ 155 delegates.

According to RCP average of polls, Cruz is up in Texas by 9 points over Trump, which makes the senator sweeping all of the states’ delegates unlikely. Even if Cruz were to win the state, some of those 155 delegates would be handed to whoever comes in second. According to RCP, that would be Trump with Rubio, Kasich and Carson behind. Something to keep in mind, though: Texas is Cruz’s home state, and he has received several key endorsements in the state, including that of Gov. Greg Abbott and former Gov. Rick Perry.

Vermont (16 delegates)

Delegates are issued on a proportional basis with a statewide vote of a 20 percent threshold. However, if no candidate reaches that threshold, than it becomes 15 percent. If no candidate reaches that 15 percent, then it becomes 10 percent. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the statewide vote, then it’s a winner-take-all.

Trump did win in Vermont’s neighbor, New Hampshire, and the latest Castleton University poll has Trump ahead by 15 points over Rubio, 32 percent to 17 percent. The state is historically more moderate, having went to Romney in 2012, and could be a good state for Rubio or Kasich.

Virginia (49 delegates)

All delegates are proportional based on a statewide vote with no threshold.

The RCP polling average has Trump up 14.5 points over Rubio.

Republican presidential candidates (L-R), retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich listen to the U.S. national anthem before a Republican presidential primary debate at The University of Houston, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Republican presidential candidates, from left, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, businessman Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich stand during the national anthem at the University of Houston before the CNN GOP presidential debate Thursday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The state of Colorado will also caucus on Tuesday but not in tandem with the RNC as the state GOP decided it did not want its delegates beholden to whoever won the state. According to the latest polling from Colorado, Carson leads the state by six points.

It’s also important to note that guidelines for delegates differ between Republican and Democratic candidates as the DNC has its own rules for its candidates.

Follow Kaitlyn Schallhorn (@K_Schallhorn) on Twitter

182 Comments