Republican Convention in Spotlight in Cleveland

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July 15, 2016

The Republican National Convention will take place July 18-21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. Several thousand people will be in attendance.

The official host of the convention is the Republican National Committee. Many top leaders of the national Republican Party will be at the convention, as will nearly 5,000 delegates from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands). Official delegates will number 2,472; also attending will be 2,302 alternate delegates, who can step in if an official delegate is unable to attend or continue.

One of the prime tasks for the delegates will be to officially nominate their candidate for President. As a result of the primaries, businessman Donald Trump has nominally gained the pledged support of 1,543 delegates, including 127 superdelegates.

A total of 2,472 delegates will cast votes for the person they wish to be their presidential nominee. The number needed is half plus 1, so 1,237. In an open forum, a spokesperson for each state or district/territory declares for whom its votes will be cast. If Trump gains 1,237 votes on the first ballot, then he will be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. If he does not gain that many votes the first time through, then delegates will vote again and, possibly, again and again, until someone gets the needed majority of votes.

The usual practice is for delegates, on the first ballot, to vote for the candidate for whom they are pledged to vote. So any delegates pledged to vote for candidates other than Trump will cast their votes for those other candidates. Because Trump nominally has the support of enough delegates to win on the first ballot, his nomination should, observers say, be a formality. On a second ballot, or a third ballot, or a fourth ballot, delegates could conceivably be released from their pledge. For example, delegates who were pledged to vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who suspended his campaign several weeks before the convention, would still be bound to vote for him on the first ballot; on subsequent ballots, however, those delegates would not be required to continue to vote for Kasich and so could vote for another candidate. This is one way in which Trump, or any presumed frontrunner, could gain the needed ballots the second time around. In the same way, delegates who would have been pledged to vote for Trump the first time around might find themselves able to vote for whomever they want the more ballots are taken.

Four convention committees have been meeting or will meet to perform specific tasks. Each of these four committees has 112 members: one man and one woman from each state, D.C., and each of the five U.S. territories.

The Committee on Rules and Order of Business determines the rules of the convention, including how delegates might vote if multiple ballots are needed to name a nominee. The Platform Committee writes the party’s platform, or set of ideas and policies to which its candidates pledge to support in the forthcoming election campaigns. The Credentials Committee arbitrates disagreements on eligibility for convention delegates. Dealing with the scheduling of events at the convention will be the Committee on Arrangements.

Decisions made by the Platform Committee and the Committee on Rules and Order of Business must be ratified by a majority vote of all convention attendees.

The convention offers a high-profile opportunity for powerful members of the party to give speeches. Among those scheduled to speak are Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Sen. Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Iowa Sen. Jodi Ernst. The eventual presidential nominee will also give a speech during the convention; this speech is traditionally on near the end of the convention.

Cleveland also played host to the Republican National Convention in 1924 and 1936, nominating Calvin Coolidge and Alf Landon, respectively.

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