Donald Trump still has a chance to capture the Republican presidential nomination on the first ballot at the party’s national convention this summer, thanks in part to his commanding victory in New York on Tuesday.
Unlike past GOP nominees, however, he might not have carte blanche to pick his running mate.
Delegates at the convention in Cleveland will vote separately on the nominations for president and vice president, and there is a key difference in the rules governing each vote: Although most of the delegates will be bound by their states to vote for a certain presidential candidate on the first ballot, none of them are required to vote for any candidate for vice president.
That distinction opens up a Pandora’s Box for Republicans, as they decide how to fill out their national ticket in November. It’s possible, and even likely, that Trump will announce an agreeable, consensus pick for vice president, and in a vote for party unity, the delegates will ratify that choice.
But here’s another possibility: Trump heads into Cleveland having just barely secured the 1,237 “pledged” delegates needed to win the nomination on the first ballot. In a last minute bid to flip delegates and stop Trump, Ted Cruz persuades Marco Rubio to be his running mate and secures the support of most of his delegates. Because of Cruz’s success in packing delegate slates at the state level, a majority of the convention delegates actually support him, even though 1,237 are required by party rules on vote for Trump on the first ballot. Who, then, do they vote for on the vice presidential ballot—Trump’s choice, or Cruz’s?