This post is speculation. It assumes that Trump will lose and lose big in November and that the Republican establishment as defined by a variety of rules committees has the power and the will to institute changes to the Republican primary process to Trump-proof the process.
The easiest way for the Republican Party to Trump-proof itself is to stop lying to its supporters. The Republican Party elite is fundamentally not trustworthy to its base voters. The core example is the promise that a Republican House and a Republican Senate could force President Obama to unwind PPACA while he sat in the White House. That was not going to happen. Trustworthy elites won’t happen as there is too much money to be made from fleecing the rubes. Once we take policy honesty off the table, rule changes are the next step.
Trump is the delegate leader (and presumptive delegate majority holder once the process plays out) with a low proportion of the total vote.
Total votes, primaries
Donald Trump ——— 10.5M
All other GOP ————— 15.6M
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) May 4, 2016
He benefited from a split field and a rules system that allowed factional plurality leaders to amass delegate strength out of proportion to their actual vote counts. Winner take all elections with more than two candidates have this common failure. There were two sets of winner take all elections in this current Republican primary. The first was state level delegates where the winner of a state received a significant bonus number of delegates and then winner take all at the Congressional District level. The Republicans assigned three delegates to each Congressional District without regard to how many Republicans actually lived or voted in that district.
538 has a good example of how this flat allocation of winner take all delegates by district helped Trump:
If Ted Cruz wins by a huge margin in Milwaukee’s suburbs, as expected tonight, he’ll get all three delegates from Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District, which cast 257,017 votes for Mitt Romney in the 2012 general election. But in two weeks, Donald Trump could capture just as many delegates by winning a majority of the vote in New York’s heavily Latino, Bronx-based 15th Congressional District, which cast only 5,315 votes for Romney four years ago.
Three weeks ago, Trump won three times as many delegates — nine — at the Northern Mariana Islands convention, which drew just 471 participants.
This is problem #1. The GOP primary delegation process favors plurality winners and it favors candidates who can win in very low turnout environments. There is a massive variance between the minimum number of votes needed per delegate and the maximum number of votes needed per delegate. Some districts are extremely efficient and some are extremely inefficient places to win. The Republicans treat districts like the Senate treats states. The first rule change would be to scale the delegate award to some measure of Republican vote strength.
The Democrats do this as they vary the number of delegates assigned to each Congressional district. The state level delegates are spread among the Congressional districts by some formula that attempts to scale somewhat linearly with a measure of Democratic strength in that district.
For the purposes of district-level delegates, states use either congressional districts or some smaller district. A state with one congressional district does not need to split the state for the selection of the district level delegates although, in the past, some have. For the purposes of allocating the district-level delegates, states are given three basic options: 1) a formula based on population and the average vote for President in the last two elections (similar to the formula used by the DNC to allocate delegates to the states); 2) a formula based on the Democratic vote for President and Governor in the most recent election for those offices; and 3) a formula based on Democratic Party registration in the state and the average vote for President in the last two elections.
For the Democrats, a district where President Obama has pulled in 85% of the vote in the last two elections is worth more than a district where Obama never crested 20% of the vote. This is not a perfect measure but it roughly narrows the range of efficient and inefficient districts.
The second major problem is the problem of a plurality winner. Parties are private organizations. They have a right to nominate whomever they want. An argument can be made that there are ta least two distinct sets of stakeholders. The first is the general populace of party members and party voters. The second is elected party officials as their futures as elected representatives is heavily intertwined with the nominee of their party. The Democratic Party uses superdelegates to give party officials a stake in the nomination. So far, superdelegates in the Democratic Party are the condom tucked carefully into the wallet of a college student on a dry spell before he goes to a party or the reserve parachute before a skydive — they are there, probably won’t be needed if everything goes as expected but very valuable in the very unusual circumstances when they are truly needed.
The Republican Party does not have a strong unpledged/elected official stakeholder interest in their nominating rules. Some type of superdelegate expansion is a highly probable modification to the rules where party elites who are worried about their own seats can exercise their interests independently of the interests of the plurality of voters.
These are two steps that are fairly straightforward and rip-offs of the current Democratic nominating process which has proven to be fairly resilient to chaotic insurgencies so far.
There is one more step that could be taken and that is restructuring how voting and selection actually occurs.
Republican primary voters get one vote to give to one candidate. In a two person race, this is not a problem. The more preferred candidate always wins the vote. However in a multi-candidate race, tactical voting with massive coordination problems arise. Does a voter whose preference order is Kasich, Cruz, syphilis, Trump vote Kasich or Cruz in a first past the post plurality winner system? Well, that depends on their assessment of how other voters who have K-C-s-T and C-K-s-T and s-C-K-T preferences will vote?
Approval voting where a voter can mark their ballot as many times as they want for candidates that they are okay with would remove tactical voting coordination problems and marginalize factional candidates who have strong plurality support and even stronger majority disgust (the Trump situation until New York.)
Assuming Trump loses to the same margins that experts are predicting today, the Republican Party will make some effort to innoculate themselves against a re-infection of Trumpism and since fleecing the rubes is still a very viable and profitable business model, the treatment will be rule changes in the nomination process.