This year’s presidential election is shaping up to be a historic one, but not for reasons you may think. Voters on the left have serious issues with both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Republican voters have qualms about real-estate magnate Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Ohio Governor John Kasich. There is a very real possibility that each party’s respective conventions will not produce a candidate worthy of the office of commander in chief in the eyes of voters.
This is where the real fun begins.
Despite racking up victory after victory, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump may not get the necessary number of delegates to secure the nomination. The magic number for Trump is 1,237 delegates. Behind the scenes, some members of the GOP leadership have been pushing for an “anyone but Trump” candidate. If Trump gets the necessary 1,237 delegates to win the nomination, Republican elder statesmen (and their donors) could try to back an alternative, third-party conservative in a last-ditch effort to save the Republican Party. If a “brokered convention” comes about that sees Cruz, Kasich, or an as-yet-unknown nominee, many Trump supporters could sit out the election entirely. Another possibility is that Trump ends up as the odd man out in a brokered convention and starts his own third-party run, which he has hinted at before.
If there are three major candidates running for president in 2016, there is a strong chance that nobody could reach the 270 delegates required to win the presidential nomination. If that were to happen, article II, section I, clause III of the U.S. Constitution states, “…and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for president….”
When former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he would not run as a third-party candidate, he said, “In a three-way race, it’s unlikely any candidate would win a majority of electoral votes, and then the power to choose the president would be taken out of the hands of the American people and thrown to Congress. The fact is, even if I were to receive the most popular votes and the most electoral votes, victory would be highly unlikely, because most members of Congress would vote for their party’s nominee. Party loyalists in Congress—not the American people or the Electoral College—would determine the next president.”
If a three-way race between Trump—either as an independent or a Republican—Clinton (let’s assume she will be the nominee as she has a lead in both delegates and superdelegates), and a moderate/conservative ends with nobody getting 270 Electoral College votes, the House of Representatives will take up a vote on who the next president will be.
Speaker Paul Ryan has insisted he will not accept a nomination for president (although he was endorsed by his predecessor, John Boehner). However, there is someone with close ties to Ryan who can win the House vote. His name is Mitt Romney. Romney has, in fact, filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in 2016. He could be the “winner” of a brokered convention or the third-party candidate who has the backing of the GOP establishment. Or he could be the only candidate upon which the 435-member House can reach an agreement.
Of course, this is all speculation. However, the rest of the world (our adversaries included) is watching this election with great interest. If our next president wins the election in the halls of Congress instead of the ballot box, state and non-state actors alike will view our next commander-in-chief in a very different light.
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