Indiana primary key for Trump

Last week I decided to write a column about the Canadian political system.

Driven by my penchant for lovely family photos, I couldn't resist remarking about the Queen's long reign and the importance of the head of state in our system of government.

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I had other motives for writing the column though... a week's break from the craziness of the American primaries seemed in order. As interesting as it is for a political scientist to watch the machinations of the American presidential nomination system come to life, I have been scrambling to keep up with following the debate and researching the very complex processes.

Alas, I feel I have to get back to it because a lot is going on in the U.S. right now and this Tuesday will likely be a critical pivot point in the process. If Donald Trump wins Indiana, then he has a very good shot at winning the nomination before the convention.

So first, I should just cover the process for the Indiana primary. It is an open primary in which any registered voter can vote despite their party affiliation but they can only choose to vote in one of the two nomination contests.

So, say I am a registered Republican, I can choose to vote in the Democratic primary but I cannot also vote in the Republican primary. Indiana is a winner-take-all state which means that the person with the plurality of the votes gets all of the delegates, but the state is divided into congressional districts (nine districts with three delegates each - 27 delegates in total). The candidate with the most votes in each of the electoral districts gets all three delegates.

There are, however, 57 total delegates at stake for the Republicans. So the other 30 are awarded to the candidate with the most votes overall.

Donald Trump is hoping to scoop all of the Indiana delegates and the California delegates (states which both have large numbers of delegates) in order to get to the magic number of 1,237.

He would still need some more delegates from other states but he would be on the brink of a win with California and Indiana.

Ted Cruz and John Kasich both know that they need to get to a contested convention in order to win the nomination so they are trying to put a stop to a pre-convention Trump victory.

As you may have read, Cruz and Kasich had a pact to try to stop Trump by getting out of each other's way in states where they felt they may have less of a chance to win. The issue for Kasich and Cruz, some argue, is that they are splitting the anti-Trump vote.

The strategy was to focus their campaigns in states where they could win, or at least where they could take a good number of the delegates. Kasich was supposed to leave Indiana for Cruz to win. But when power and politics are at stake these kinds of pacts can be short-lived and it didn't take long for the agreement to collapse. Kasich is still asking for votes in Indiana.

Another big headline this week was Trump's statement that the only thing that Hilary Clinton has going for her is "the women's card."

There have been many excellent editorial commentaries on this statement and I could certainly add a few choice words but suffice it to say that Trump did not do himself any favours when he made this remark.

I presume that the Clinton speech writers were ecstatic to be able to pull out all the playing card analogies: "deal me in;" "holding the Trump card" etc.

And Trump has opened himself up for other Republicans to start to woo female voters to their camp and away from Trump. Even Cruz admitted that selecting a running-mate this early in the primary was unusual but the fact that he chose Carly Fiorina was obviously no accident.

For most observers a central question in this nomination process is how the Republican Party will unify and move forward into November.

John Boehner's denunciation of Ted Cruz as "Lucifer in the flesh" doesn't speak well for the candidate that is being held out as the potential Trump spoiler.

So, stay tuned. There is lots more to come...

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