Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio felt compelled to engage in some teaching to enlighten critics, including some within the news media and supporters of his rivals alike. During a Fox News interview today, Feb. 24, Rubio was asked about the fact that rival Donald Trump is winning the most states, for now. Rubio responded by stating that in the race to be the nominee for the Republican party, the objective is not necessarily to win more states than the others but to win more delegates to the Republican National Convention.
Rubio contends that the Republican race is not won by merely winning the most individual states. While some states are “winner take call” contests wherein the winner is awarded all of that state’s Republican delegates, other states are proportional in their approach. For example, in the non winner take all state, Trump may come in first in that state, but he does not get all the delegates. Delegates are awarded proportionally, meaning that the candidates that come in second and third place are awarded a percentage of the delegates that is proportional to how many votes they receive in the Republican primary.
Using this formula, which has been set by the rules of the Republican party, if Trump gets 50 percent of the primary votes in a non winner take all state, he will only receive 50 percent of the available delegates. If a rival such as Rubio comes in second, then he will get a significant number of delegates but not as many as Trump. So will Ted Cruz if he comes in third. Even the candidates with the fewest primary votes, say three or four percent of the votes cast, then they could potentially walk out of that state with a small number of delegates according to the percentage of the votes cast in the primary.
For example, in 1992 it was already the month of March before Bill Clinton won a single key Democratic primary outright. But he had been accumulating delegates all along based the percentage of the votes he received in the primaries. It was only after Clinton won the Georgia Democratic primary that he took the lead in the delegate count.
The day is quickly approaching, however, when outright winning a primary will become all-important. Super Tuesday is March 1. Twelve states and one U.S. territory will have primaries. Unless Rubio can hang a few trophies on his wall, such as Florida, Tennessee, or Virginia, then his path to the Oval Office will grow so narrow that neither he nor any other candidate for that matter will stand much of a chance. That goes for Ted Cruz as well.