Do you remember when they said it wasn’t possible? When the pointy-headed wonks in Washington DC and the New York journalists with their masters degrees said Donald Trump’s campaign would be hit by scandal, or come undone without the support of experienced Republican party officials who knew how to work complicated caucus states, or that the candidate would simply lose interest and go back to making money?
At a little before quarter past 10 on Thursday morning, an Associated Press reporter ran the numbers through his calculator and found that Trump had proved the sceptics wrong, he had clinched the 1237 delegates he needed for the Republican Party nomination. A small number of unbound delegates had made the jump to Trump, allowing him to clinch the magic number. He must still get the seal of approval at the party convention in Cleveland in July. That’s now a rubber stamp.
To all intents and purposes the primary campaign is over and he can focus on November’s general election – with some serious implications for the rest of the race. And for the rest of the world. First, no-one can cry foul. Or at least Trump has the moral high ground to see off what squabbling will come in Cleveland. He has the numbers. No need for deals in back rooms to make sure delegates assigned to other, fallen candidates come his way.
Sure, he had the nomination in the bag after his remaining rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out after poor showings in Indiana at the start of the month. But mopping up the last delegates remained a calculation in every move. On Thursday, for example, he was due to deliver a speech on energy in North Dakota – where he had one eye on the state’s 28 unbound delegates. (Even before he spoke, 15 of them told the AP man they plumping for Trump.) Now he can speak in the locations most advantageous to beating Hillary Clinton in November.
Meanwhile, the billionaire businessman can enjoy the spectacle of Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont, doing his heavy lifting for him, continuing those damaging attacks on the former first lady. The longer it takes for her to sew up the Democrat nomination the better for Trump. Already, we have seen how the Republican party has begun to coalesce around its Muslim-baiting, abortion-banning, tax-minimising candidate.
Political scientists have even studied the effect. The length of the nomination process is one of a number of factors – including the strength of the American economy and the sitting president’s approval rating – that has an impact on election outcomes. The longer this goes on for the Democrats, the more it damages their chances of healing their own divisions and retaining the White House. Meanwhile, his odds at William Hill have been slashed. Where once he was viewed a 150/1 outsider, he has now closed to 7/4. So when you think about placing a bet and read that Donald Trump’s nomination makes Hillary Clinton a shoo-in for president, remember what the experts said about his chances of winning the Republican nomination.