Editor’s Note: Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, The Observer will sit down with Notre Dame experts to break down the election and its importance to students. In this eighth installment, Associate News Editor Rachel O’Grady asked Notre Dame Law School professor of election law Lloyd Mayer about the possibility of a brokered GOP convention.
Rachel O’Grady: Trump just pretty handily won a number of states [last night]. What does this mean for the Republican party down the road? What are the implications of a Trump nomination?
Lloyd Mayer: Short-term, it makes it likely that Trump will have the most delegates going into the Republican Convention, but it is less clear whether he will have a majority of delegates. If Trump is nominated, it does not mean that the Democratic Party nominee will definitely win — no one is willing to make such predictions anymore, given how wrong just about everyone was about where the race would be at this point. But his presence at the top of the ticket will alienate some voters who otherwise would vote Republican, likely hurting turnout for Republicans and negatively impacting Republican candidates across the board. If he loses, the Republican Party will have a lot of ground to make up with voters before the next presidential election.
ROG: Hillary is gaining serious momentum, but Sanders could win the nomination yet. What are your predictions?
LM: Much smarter people than me have been dead wrong when making predictions for this election year, so I am hesitant to claim any ability to foresee the future here. Clinton will have to keep pushing hard to cross the finish line, and it is still possible that some unexpected development or disclosure could derail her campaign. The odds are in her favor, but it will not be over until it’s over.
ROG: The potential for a brokered convention is becoming increasingly more likely. Could it happen? What’s the result if it does?
LM: If Trump does not have a majority of pledged delegates, then the likely result of the first delegate vote at the Republican Convention will be no majority winner. I say ‘likely’ because some delegates, primarily Republican National Committee members from certain states, are not formally pledged and so are free to vote for the candidate of their choice, even in the first round. If there is no majority winner on the first vote, at that point delegates are technically released from their commitments based on the primary or caucus results of their state. Even so, many delegates may feel bound by those results for subsequent votes, while others will have been chosen in a manner that ensures their loyalty to the candidate for whom they voted in the first round. At this point it is therefore very difficult to predict the likely results. The key issue will be how far the leadership of the Republican party is willing to go to block a Trump nomination, which could include trying to change the rules I just described, so as to disadvantage Trump.
ROG: In your research and opinion, what do you think will be the most important issue in the general election?
LM: At the moment the biggest issue for many voters is the economy, including the apparent fragility of the economic recovery, the rapid pace of change in the workplace, and the resulting uncertainty for many workers and their families. Related concerns include immigration, education, and healthcare costs, but events could easily shift this picture. The most obvious example would be a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, which could elevate national security and related issues such as immigration to the forefront.
ROG: Taking it back to college campuses, particularly here at Notre Dame, primaries in many of our home states are coming up. What is something we, as college students, should be paying particular attention to?
LM: Students should be paying careful attention to the actual policy positions of the candidates, including whether their current positions appear to be sincere ones based on their ideological commitments and past positions or instead positions adopted simply to win the next election. Student should also educate themselves about the issues, so they can form independent opinions about important areas over which elected officials have significant influence, taking into account not only what policies will best help them economically but the moral dimensions of policy choices. Finally, students, like all citizens, need to take what they learn, and apply it not only in the ballot box, but in between elections through involvement with politically active organizations and government bodies. The media may turn most of its attention elsewhere after Nov. 8, but citizens should not.