Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a campaign event at the Pensacola Bay Center on Jan. 13, 2016, in Pensacola, Fla. Trump continues his quest to become the Republican presidential nominee. (Photos by Charles Ommanney/The Washington Post)

Donald Trump's path to winning the majority of delegates he needs to secure the Republican nomination before this summer's Republican National Convention is more difficult than most people think, argues a new GOP super PAC aimed at opposing Trump.

In a memo shared early with The Fix, Our Principles PAC lays out a series of scenarios -- including ones in which Trump wins the all-important Florida and Ohio primaries on Tuesday -- that would leave him shy of the 1,237 delegates he would need to avoid a contested convention.

Anti-Trump forces in the GOP have largely focused on preventing Trump from gaining a majority of delegates as a means of stopping his nomination -- thanks in large part to the complete lack of traction for the more establishment-friendly candidates in the race, Marco Rubio and John Kasich.

The super PAC, which was founded in January by former top Mitt Romney aide Katie Packer, notes that Trump has thus far won less than 50 percent of the available delegates. That's in large part because states holding contests before Tuesday were not allowed to award all of their delegates to the winner of their state; they had to do it proportionally.

Starting Tuesday, though, many big states will award all or most of their very large delegate prizes to one candidate -- including Florida and Ohio (both of which are winner-take-all) on Tuesday. Combine that with the fact that these are Rubio's and Kasich's homes states, respectively, and the stakes become immediately clear when it comes to stopping Trump.

But Our Principles PAC argues that Trump can be stopped even if he wins one or both of those states.

"If Trump loses any combination of the states that vote on Tuesday, March 15, his path becomes improbable – and should he lose Florida, Ohio and Illinois, it will be nearly impossible for Trump to emerge as the Republican nominee for President," the memo argues.

The group also argues that another candidate could realistically still overtake Trump and beat him in the delegate count by a substantial margin -- or even win the nomination outright with 1,237 delegates.

That would certainly appear possible, though unlikely, given that Trump leads Ted Cruz in the delegate count by just 99 delegates -- 458 to 359 (Rubio has 151, and Kasich has 54). But Trump has also polled well nationwide, and he currently shows double-digit leads in Florida and two other states voting Tuesday: Illinois and North Carolina. Ohio is tight between Trump and Kasich, while the fifth state voting Tuesday, Missouri, hasn't seen a recent poll.

His opponents, meanwhile, have failed to live up to their potential, with Cruz getting swept by Trump in the Deep South and losing evangelical voters to the front-runner (much of his delegate haul is from his home state of Texas), and Rubio and Kasich winning a combined one state between them so far.

In other words, for Trump to lose, someone would need to take it from him and prevent him from winning valuable winner-take-all and winner-take-most states, which previously didn't exist.


The scenarios laid out by the super PAC's memo are necessarily complicated -- and breaking them all down is Herculean task. The Fix's own Chris Cillizza noted Monday that, if Trump wins Florida and Ohio, he would need to win only 52 percent of the remaining delegates to hit 1,237 (again, with doing that being easier now that winner-take-all states are involved). If he loses Ohio but wins Florida -- which looks like a real possibility -- he needs 59 percent. If he loses both somehow, he would need to win 69 percent of the remaining delegates.

For more, see Robert Costa's and Philip Rucker's report from Monday.


Below is the full memo:

TO: INTERESTED PARTIES
FROM: OUR PRINCIPLES PAC
SUBJECT: THE REALITY OF DELEGATE MATH
DATE: MARCH 9, 2016

Following the results of last night’s elections it remains unlikely that Donald Trump can win the necessary 1,237 delegates to secure the nomination outright. His severe under performance this weekend complicated an already difficult task. If Trump loses any combination of the states that vote on Tuesday, March 15, his path becomes improbable – and should he lose Florida, Ohio and Illinois, it will be nearly impossible for Trump to emerge as the Republican nominee for President.

THE SIMPLE MATH

Starting with the simplest possible look, the most straightforward way to attain 1,237 delegates is to win at least 50% of the delegates at stake each election day. As of today, no candidate is near that 50% threshold.

As of today, 1056 delegates have been contested and Trump has won approximately 466 of them or 44%, well below the required 50% plus 1. That means that in order to secure the required number of delegates, Trump will now have to carry 54% of the remaining 1,416 delegates still at stake. That means he would have to outperform his current level of performance by 23%.

Once all the delegates from last night have been awarded, Trump will likely only win 48% of the delegates, again coming up short of the necessary 54% to reach 1,237.

It is important to note that nearly 60% of the delegates have yet to be contested. Even beyond next Tuesday, a number of huge voter rich states like Washington, Oregon, Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California will hold their elections. From these and the other remaining states, there are hundreds of viable and plausible outcomes that would not only prevent Trump from reaching 1,237, but would allow an alternative candidate to amass an absolute delegate lead over Trump in the 250–350 delegate range. There are also dozens of scenarios that would result in alternative candidates not just passing Trump, but also amassing the necessary 1,237 themselves to become the nominee.

THE FULL MATH

To take a fuller look at the very difficult task facing Donald Trump, let’s quickly walk through all the things that can go right for him, but still leave him short.

Assuming he loses FL and OH…

Trump can win ALL the delegates in Illinois, the Virgin Islands, Arizona, Delaware, Oregon and New Jersey…

AND win the large majority of delegates in Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana and California…

AND win DC, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Maryland, West Virginia, Washington and New Mexico and STILL FALL SHORT of the 1,237 threshold.

Even if Trump were to win Florida…

Trump can win ALL the delegates in the Virgin Islands, Arizona, Delaware, Oregon and New Jersey…

AND win the large majority of delegates in Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana and California…

AND win DC, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Maryland, West Virginia, Washington and New Mexico and STILL FALL SHORT of the 1,237 threshold.

Even if Trump were to win Florida and Ohio…

Trump can win ALL the delegates in the Virgin Islands, Delaware, Oregon and New Jersey…

AND win the large majority of delegates in Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana and California…

AND win DC, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Maryland, West Virginia, Washington and New Mexico and STILL FALL SHORT of the 1,237 threshold.

CLOSED PRIMARIES

Further complicating Trump’s chances is the fact that there are a number of closed primaries coming up, where only Republicans are allowed to vote – such as Florida’s primary. To date there have only been three such contests: Oklahoma and Idaho (both of which Trump lost); and Louisiana (which he carried by a narrow 41%-38% margin). After March 15, there will be twelve more “closed” primaries – AZ, NY, CT, DE, MD, PA, NE, OR, WA, CA, NM, SD – representing 636 delegates or 44% of the delegates yet to be chosen.

CONCLUSION

All of these factors combine to make his path to nomination increasingly difficult and less and less likely each day that a majority of GOP primary voters show up to vote for someone other than Donald Trump.

Given the current dynamics of the race, it will be difficult for Donald Trump to win the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination.