Who cares about Indiana?

Posted at 5:00 AM, May 03, 2016

Hoosiers don’t typically get much attention from political campaigns, but this year is different. Indiana residents have been blasted with campaign ads on the radio and television as well as dozens of visits from the remaining presidential candidates.

“This is certainly a different level of activity,” said Pete Seat, an Indiana resident and political consultant for the Kasich campaign. “Every commercial break is wall-to-wall political ads. It’s very different to have presidential campaigns on.”

There’s a reason presidential hopefuls – along with the entire political world -- are turning their attention to Indiana, which holds its presidential primary contests today.

Here’s why you should watch be watching, too:

1. Can Donald Trump win enough delegates to be the nominee?


Indiana voters could decide that today. Trump is already the only Republican candidate left who can earn enough votes – and delegates – to win the party’s nomination outright. Trump is just 241 delegates short from winning the 1,237 delegates the party requires to capture the nomination at the Republican National Convention. Indiana has 57 delegates up for grabs today. If he wins the bulk of those delegates, he’s the only candidate left on a likely path to get enough delegates for the party's nomination.

2. What do delegates and the convention have to do with this?

Primary voting is different from general election voting.

During the primary, voters essentially decide which presidential candidate will get the state’s delegates. Those delegates then get together at the Republican National Convention in July and vote for the presidential candidate. Each state has different rules about how their delegate can vote at the convention. Most delegates are bound, which means they’re required to cast a ballot for the candidate their state’s voters elected. A small number of delegates can vote for the candidate they like the best. Of the 996 delegates Trump has earned so far, only 41 are “unbound.”

3. Why do John Kasich and Ted Cruz still think they have a shot at the nomination?

Both Kasich and Cruz won’t win enough delegates to earn the Republican Party’s nomination outright. They hope Trump will come up short of delegates at the convention too. If the 1,237 delegates can’t agree on the nominee during the convention’s first round of voting, the event becomes “contested.” Delegates have to submit to additional rounds of voting until at least 1,237 of them agree on the best candidate.

Here’s the most important catch: After the first round of voting, many delegates become “unbound.” So, they can vote for any candidate they want. Kasich and Cruz are working on convincing those delegates to vote for them during extra rounds of voting at the convention. 

4. OK, what does Indiana have to do with all of this again?

If Trump picks up most of Indiana’s delegates it will put him very close to earning the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination. After tonight, primaries remain in just seven states, where 389 delegates are up for grabs. Few of those states, many on the west and east coasts, will be friendly terrain for Cruz. Kasich will likely struggle with name recognition in the others.

If Trump wins all of Indiana’s delegates Tuesday, he’ll only need to win half of the delegates in the remaining states. But, if he loses, it will be harder for him to reach that number and could put the party on track for a contested convention.

5. So, then, why isn’t Kasich campaigning in Indiana today?

Kasich is low on cash. He had $1.1 million on hand as of March 31, which makes it difficult to compete with Trump and Cruz, especially in big markets such as Indianapolis. Team Kasich struck a deal with Cruz: Kasich promised to bow out of campaigning in the Hoosier state, in turn, hoping Cruz could win big there and stop Trump.

6. Bottom line: You should watch how Indiana votes today because …

Voters there might decide the Republican Party’s nominee. If Ted Cruz loses in Indiana – which some polls show is likely to happen– it could diminish Cruz and Kasich’s already dim presidential hopes. If Cruz wins big, however, you’ll hear more talk of a contested convention. 

No matter what happens tonight, Cleveland is shaping up to be an interesting place when the Republican National Convention rolls into town come July.

Sources: The Associated Press, Republican National Committee, WCPO Insider archives