The Slatest

The Republican Race Is Going to Last Another 11 Weeks—if Not Longer

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz listen to the national anthem before the start of the CNN debate on the campus of the University of Miami on March 10 in Coral Gables, Florida.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Tuesday’s Republican contests ended in a split: Donald Trump won big in Arizona, claiming all 58 delegates at stake in its winner-take-all primary while Ted Cruz won by an even bigger margin in Utah, snagging all 40 delegates up for grabs in its winner-take-all-in-certain-situations caucus.

The results offered both something to cheer about. For Trump, his 20-odd point victory in Arizona is proof of his strength in the type of large, diverse states the primary calendar is back-loaded with. For Cruz, his 50-odd point victory in Utah (combined with the Arizona returns) is evidence that anti-Trump Republicans may have finally decided he’s their man. And what do the results mean for everyone else? They serve as a reminder that the Republican race is almost certain to drag on for another 11 long weeks—if not longer.

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Trump increased his already sizable lead on Cruz by 18 delegates on Tuesday and remains all but certain to finish the primary season with the most delegates to his name. But a close look at the math and the calendar suggests that the celebrity billionaire can’t win the 1,237 delegates needed to claim the nomination until the final day on the GOP primary calendar: June 7, when the final five states dole out their delegates.

According to the Associated Press’ estimates, Trump has now won a total of 739 delegates, nearly 60 percent of the number he’ll need. But to reach 1,237, he’ll need to win roughly 53 percent of the delegates up for grabs in the remaining 18 contests on the calendar. While that’s possible—though hardly assured—it is nearly impossible for him to do before the final 303 bound delegates are awarded on June 7 via contests in New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, and California (which will award a whopping 172 delegates via a winner-take-most primary). Together, those states account for nearly a third of the outstanding Republican delegates.

Cruz isn’t going to reach the magic number himself—he’d need to win more than 80 percent of delegates in the upcoming contests—but he is openly running on the idea of a contested convention, so there’s absolutely no reason to suspect he’ll call it quits once he does become mathematically eliminated. And so the race will drag on through the remainder of March, all of April, all of May, and into the beginning of June—or, perhaps, even longer.

See more of Slate’s GOP primary coverage.

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