It is too early to predict with accuracy whether Donald Trump will secure enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination during the first round of voting. But if he comes close enough, say within a hundred delegates or less, conventional wisdom suggests that he should still win the nomination. He would have obtained millions of votes more than any of the other contenders and surely he could gather another hundred or so votes at the convention. In this regard, Trump’s latest hire, Paul Manafort, a Republican convention expert, should be able to grease the skids to accomplish this.
But the Republican primary has been anything but conventional this year and the convention in Cleveland could turn out to be a very fractured event. Trump could fail to get the requisite number and Cruz could steal some of Trump’s delegates, possibly with Kasich’s help. Or, the “establishment” could seize the moment and run one of their own candidates. Trump’s options at this point would be limited if he hasn’t prepared for an “Independent” candidacy: Each state has rules that require a certain number of signatures on a petition before a candidate is eligible to run as an Independent in their state. Moreover, the various states have deadlines for obtaining these signatures well before the date of the Republican convention. In other words, if Trump truly means that he will keep his options open “if he isn’t treated right”, he needs to be taking some precautionary steps soon. A write-in candidacy would be futile.
A bigger problem for the Republican party is that if Trump doesn’t gain the nomination, for any reason, the Democrats will win the election. This is true because the majority of Trump supporters are extremely loyal and likely would not be inspired to vote for any other Republican candidate; some of them might vote Democratic out of spite. Without Trump’s sizable core of voters, no Republican could win. Curiously, it seems apparent that some members of the “establishment” wing of the party really don’t care if the Democrats win– they will wait four years and try to rehabilitate someone like Rubio.