The Wisconsin primary is on Tuesday, and if the polls are any indicator, Ted Cruz is on track to win the state. And if he does, the Republicans are most likely headed toward a contested convention. Cruz stands a decent shot of winning the nomination in that scenario, and if that happens, one question will loom large: Will Donald Trump endorse Ted Cruz?
It’s usually a fool’s errand to try to guess what Trump will or won’t do, since he’s about as predictable as an earthquake. Having said that, it seems highly, highly improbable that Trump would ever endorse Cruz. This is solely because of the sequence of events that would need to unfold in order for Cruz to win the nomination and be in a position to accept a Trump endorsement.
As it stands, Cruz has two paths to the nomination. He can either get a majority of delegates in the primaries and caucuses, or he can prevent Trump from getting a majority of delegates and then win at a contested convention. The first option is mathematically possible but extremely unlikely, because Cruz is already way behind in delegates and would have to win landslide after landslide to catch up with Trump.
Cruz winning a contested convention, on the other hand, is quite easy to imagine, because he’s done a very good job of getting his own loyalists elected as delegates in key states. That’s crucial, because it means a lot of delegates who were previously bound to Trump would likely switch their votes to Cruz on the subsequent ballots if the convention is contested. Trump could enter the convention with a plurality of delegates but fail to reach a majority on the first ballot, then lose decisively to Cruz in the next round of voting.
That’s the most likely way in which Cruz becomes the nominee. The thing is that in this scenario, Cruz would be getting the nomination even though Trump won more delegates — and it’s absolutely, positively inconceivable that The Donald would suffer such an injustice and then go on to endorse the man who delivered that injustice.
Trump has already hinted that a situation like this would make him very, very angry. In a CNN interview in March, he said that “you’d have riots” if he won more delegates than the other candidates but didn’t “automatically” get the nomination. That, of course, isn’t how the rules work, but no matter. The point is that Trump thinks such an outcome would be illegitimate.
It’s really, really, really, really hard to imagine Trump throwing his support behind a guy whom he thinks robbed him of the nomination. The party could attempt to strong-arm him into endorsing Cruz, but what leverage would they have? Trump has no allegiance to the GOP as an institution. Cruz might try to make Trump an offer he can’t refuse — a cabinet appointment, say — but would that even work? Are Trump’s supporters going to pull the lever for Cruz after he’s snatched the nomination from their golden boy? Fat chance.
If Cruz wins the nomination, the more likely scenario is that Trump will either run a third-party campaign or, in subtler ways, do everything he can to undermine Cruz’s chances of winning. Trump is nothing if not a revenge artist — “If you do not get even, you are just a schmuck,” he once said — and ensuring the defeat of the party that stiffed him out of the nomination would be the ultimate revenge. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
In a parallel universe in which Trump didn’t win a single primary and Cruz swept the map with ease, maybe Trump would endorse Cruz. As it stands, the things that need to happen for Cruz to become the nominee simultaneously eliminate the possibility of Trump endorsing him. If Cruz wins the nomination, Trump won’t be lifting a finger to help him.