The magic number fell to 499 for Republican frontrunner Donald Trump last night. That’s how many delegates he now needs to assure himself a first-ballot win at the GOP’s nominating convention in July, after a 47 percent plurality victory in Arizona’s winner-take-all primary awarded him all 58 of that states delegates.
Trump celebrated by using his widely followed Twitter account to falsely accuse his closest rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, of using an old nude photograph Trump’s wife, Melania, in a campaign advertisement. The ad, which was actually produced by the anti-Trump group Make America Awesome Again, suggested that the former model is not fit to be first lady of the United States, and urged voters to support Cruz instead.
Trump went on to threaten to “spill the beans” on his rival’s wife, Heidi Cruz. It was unclear to reporters covering the campaign what “beans” Trump could possibly have to spill on the former Goldman Sachs executive. Ms. Cruz reportedly struggled with depression more than a decade ago, but recovered to have an extremely successful career before resigning her position to support her husband’s campaign.
Cruz, who won 40 delegates himself on Tuesday night in Utah by taking a huge 69 percent majority in Utah to trigger that state’s winner-take-all rule, called Trump “classless” and a “coward “in response to the tycoon’s threat.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, meanwhile, came away with no delegates last night. In fact, because of Arizona’s early voting rules, which allowed registered Republicans to cast their ballots weeks in advance, late vote tallies suggested that he might receive fewer votes than Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race last week.
Last night’s results leave Trump with a substantial lead over his rivals with nearly two-thirds of the delegates already awarded. The billionaire real estate mogul and former reality television star has 738 delegates so far, out of the 1,237 needed to clinch a majority on the first ballot at the July convention.
Despite his victory in Utah, Cruz lost ground to Trump in the delegate count yesterday, and with a total 463 delegates bound to him, now trails by 275 delegates. Kasich is a distant third, with only 143 delegates. (American Samoa also chose its nine delegates last night, but under the territory’s rules, they are not bound to a specific candidate, and can vote their conscience at the convention.)
As it stands now, there are 914 delegates still available in the remaining primaries. To clinch, Trump needs to win 56 percent of them. So far, he has collected 47 percent of the delegates awarded, but in many states, he was splitting the pool with a much larger field of competitors than he now faces.
Cruz would need to win 85 percent to clinch, a feat so improbable that he can no longer credibly claim that he is the only person with a path to a majority other than Trump. Kasich has long been out of contention for an outright victory, and is counting on a contested primary. If no candidate receives a majority on the first ballot, delegates would start being freed to vote as they please, and might be able to sweep him to the nomination despite his poor showing in the primaries.