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Calendar Will Play A Wild Card Role In The GOP Nominating Contest


Let's talk now about the Republic presidential campaign, not the candidates but the calendar. Changes to the process made by the party mean it could be a long time before we know who the Republican nominee is. Benjamin Ginsberg is a Washington, D.C. attorney, who was national council for both the George W. Bush and Mitt Romney presidential campaigns and joins us to talk about it. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: Now, you wrote in Politico this week that in every presidential election in the last 20 years, the GOP settled on its nominee by early March. That sounds like a dream right now. Do you - but what's different?

GINSBERG: Well, a number of things are different. There were some fundamental changes made to the rules process by which the nominees are selected that moved back the process. You've got an uncommonly crowded field this time around. You've got an angry electorate that is stirring things up, really, on both sides of the aisle. The establishment is uncharacteristically divided in coalescing around a candidate. So it's a yeasty mix, all in all.

MONTAGNE: So lots of things - so process just being one of them.

GINSBERG: Yes, process just being one of them. The candidates and the issues and the mood of the country all play into it, as well.

MONTAGNE: Well, one thing that you write is that typically, there are two lanes in the Republican nominating contest - the establishment lane and the conservative lane. But this time, you see a possible viable third lane that you call the Trump lane. What will that do to this season?

GINSBERG: Well, what it does is have the possibility of extending it. You need to have a majority of delegates at the convention. A majority is pretty easily achieved with two candidates. Things get messier if there are three viable candidates or three lanes of candidates amassing delegates.

MONTAGNE: Now, when we talk about lanes, though, it's still, again, within the party, not, say, third candidate. I mean, actually, those are functioning areas of interest.

GINSBERG: Yes, I mean, if you look at the polls right now, Donald Trump has a bit more than a third of the vote. Ted Cruz, who would represent the conservative lane along with a couple others, has about a third. And the four leading establishment candidates right now have a bit less than a third.

MONTAGNE: Fine. So when you sit here and you look at these three lanes and how that's breaking down, you do the math, you look at the calendar, where do you think the Republican Party is likely to be going into the Republican National Convention this summer?

GINSBERG: I think you have to go back to what historically happens if you were to place odds on this, which means that there will be one candidate who has a majority of delegates at the convention. But the chances of that not happening this time - of something really of an historic and unusual nature - is certainly greater than it's been for an awful - an awful long time.

MONTAGNE: Everyone always gets excited about that, though. Every year - I mean, every four years - the possibility of, effectively, a fight on the convention floor. Any chance of that?

GINSBERG: Yeah. Oh, sure. Again, because there are - at least at this point, appear to be - three viable lanes of candidates. The - just the mathematical chances of arriving in Cleveland in - on July 18 without a majority is increased than if there were the traditional establishment and disruptor candidates fighting it out.

MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, what's your take on why the voters are so unhappy this particular time around?

GINSBERG: It seems to be a combination of things. They expected a great deal of hope and promise out of the current administration and Congress. That, I think, has not been delivered to anyone's satisfaction on either the left or the right. There's a great deal of unease about the U.S. economy. There is a great deal of unease about our standing in the world as a whole. And Washington itself has presented people with a feeling of dysfunction. They're not listening to me, and that - and that's all combined together to give us an angry electorate that's picking candidates out of the mainstream in both parties.

MONTAGNE: All right, well, thanks very much.

GINSBERG: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Benjamin Ginsberg is a longtime counsel to Republican campaigns. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.