Googling the phrase 2016 primaries indicates that Donald Trump is the "likely Republican presidential nominee" (emphasis mine).

While Donald Trump needs 1237 delegates to secure the nomination, he currently only has 1013. However, all of his opponents (namely Cruz and Kasich) have recently dropped out of the race.

My question is, why does Google only consider him the likely nominee? Won't he, by definition, win the remaining delegates and pass the 1237 threshold? Or can something still go wrong pre-convention that takes the nomination away from Trump?

  • What most people are saying is that Cruz and Carson are mathematically eliminated from the race. As you stated, Trump already has 1013 delegates, so even if either of the other two won any of the remaining states, Trump still wins the nomination, barring unforeseen circumstances.
    – moonman239
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 1:43

5 Answers 5


No, Trump is not the official nominee until the Republican National Convention says so.

A number of things could go wrong (or right, depending on your politics) to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the Republican party presidential candidate.

The first thing to realize is the rules for "pledged" delegates vary by state. In the Republican Party system most delegates are "bound" by their states; their vote will go to their pledged candidate in the first round. If no one gets a majority in the first round, states begin to release their delegates from their obligations for the next rounds of voting. At that point it's chaos and delegates become free to make their own choices. Formerly bound delegates will become free to vote for any eligible candidate in the second round or later rounds. Eligibility is determined by party rules and can be changed at the convention. This is a simplification of a very complicated process, more detail below.

The second thing is that selecting a presidential candidate is a party process, not a legal one. The Republican Party decides how they select their candidates, and the Democratic Party has their own. This is further split up state by state. This is part of why the process is so weird.

That said, barring serious party shenanigans, if Trump gets the magic number of pledged delegates he is in... except for below.

He could die.

A similar situation happened in the 1872 presidential election when Liberal Republican candidate Horace Greeley died after the Electorial College had been chosen but before they had voted. All but three electors switched their votes to other candidates. This didn't throw the election, Grant already had it wrapped up.

What happens to Trump's pledged delegates if he dies varies state by state.

He could not get the necessary bound delegates.

Candidates typically don't "drop out" of the race, they "suspend their campaigns". Even if Trump is the only one on the ballot it's not assured he will be awarded the delegates. The rules vary from state to state.

If Trump fails to get the necessary bound delegates in the first round, voting goes into a second round. This is known as a contested convention and it's what Ted Cruz was hoping for. At this point things begin to unravel. The rules get complicated, both state and convention rules. Once unbound delegates can vote for anyone they want, or not vote at all, though it's unclear what votes will be counted. We'll get to that.

With Cruz out this is extremely unlikely. What is more likely is attempts at the convention to take bound delegates away from Trump with various procedural shenanigans, more on that later.

He could drop out.

I was waiting for Trump's April 1st press conference to declare his candidacy the greatest April Fool's Joke of all time. Alas, it didn't happen. But if it did, things would be in turmoil and the other candidates would come racing back to the campaign trail.

Republican National Convention shenanigans.

The 2016 RNC rules are currently not known. Yes, this is a little crazy. Just like Trump is the presumptive nominee, everyone is operating under presumptive rules.

The rules of the 2016 Republican National Convention are not law. Each convention decides its own rules. It's customary to adopt the rules of the previous RNC, and the tweaks since, but this is not required! Several key rules could be changed, or their interpretations changed, to "unbind" delegates, or change how votes are counted, or to allow bound delegates to simply not vote. Rule 16 and Rule 40 are the two big ones outlining how delegates votes are counted, and who is eligible for nomination.

Under the presumptive Rule 40, only Trump and Cruz are eligible for the nomination because they're the only ones who can "demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight (8) or more states". This rule can change. It was added in 2012 to prevent spoiler candidates, but that's exactly what the 2016 anti-Trump people want.

The presumptive, and heavily revised since 2012, Rule 16 deals with rogue delegates. Long story short, delegates cannot act against their state's rules. If they do they are considered to have resigned and voted according to their state's rules. Like many parliamentary systems, there's some wiggle room in the rule which allows the Secretary Of The Convention to pick and choose which violations they pay attention to. And, again, Rule 16 may change.

It's complicated. Pulling the presumptive rules apart is its own answer. Even then they might not be the 2016 rules.

Such shenanigans are a part of every RNC. An overt move would shatter the Republican Party and the people's already shaky faith in their nomination system. Expect a lot of rules lawyering. This is the big unknown.

A similar situation happened at the 1912 RNC to protect President Taft's nomination as the incumbent from the popular former president Teddy Roosevelt. Denied the Republican nomination, Teddy ran in 1912 as a 3rd party candidate.


  • 5
    Please keep comments about the answer. If you want to talk about Trump, please take it to chat.
    – Schwern
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 20:35
  • I would add that even though he is not yet officially the nominee, he is almost certainly going to be. Commented May 7, 2016 at 20:45
  • 8
    "I was waiting for Trump's April 1st press conference to declare his candidacy the greatest April Fool's Joke of all time." You were not alone.
    – Turion
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 7:15
  • @Brytham, the wording about picking "anyone they want" is incorrect. Only eligible candidates can be on the ballot at the convention at any point. There is no threshold after which eligibility rules don't apply. Commented May 8, 2016 at 13:36
  • @BenCollins I did some more research and heavily updated the answer with more sources and the presumptive rules. No version so far has been entirely correct. There's a lot of rules to keep delegates in line, they're complicated, and they might change. To be technically correct would require its own answer. Instead I summarized the important parts as best I could and made it clear what parts are a simplification.
    – Schwern
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 18:47

Even though it is "probable" even above the 99% level, he is still not officially nominated by the Republican convention. Even after he has 1,237 delegates committed to vote for him (no matter which ballot), that would only make him the presumptive nominee. That is, we assume that he will become the nominee, but he has not yet become so.

Google "Republican presumptive nominee" and you will see the term used.

After all, a meteorite could still (G0d forbid) hit the airplane Mr. Trump is in before the convention.

  • 1
    I think a fair follow-up (and might be what the OP was getting at with his/her last sentence) is: can the Republican establishment do anything from this point forward to prevent Trump from being officially nominated by the RNC?
    – user8058
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 18:18
  • 4
    @user8058 As I said, any number of things could still happen no matter how unlikely or improbable. Commented May 6, 2016 at 18:31

He is not the official nominee of the Republican party until the National Convention has met and has officially elected him.

However, considering that he will likely run unopposed, this is basically just a formality. Expect the RNC to become a big PR event for him. The only interesting question which will likely be answered there is who his running mate will be.

  • He is the presumptive nominee.
    – Citizen
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 21:53
  • 1
    Considering that anyone who would run with Trump would essentially be committing career suicide, it would be hilarious if he couldn't find anyone to run with him. Or worse yet, end up with Sarah Palin as VP... Commented May 7, 2016 at 5:26
  • @DrunkenCodeMonkey My assumption would be that he'd try to get along without a VP ... :) Commented May 8, 2016 at 17:53

A Nomination will be made at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio from July 18 until July 21, 2016. If Trump is nominated at that convention and He recieves enough votes to win the nomination, he will then be refered to as the Republican Party's presidential Nominee. Until then it is presumed by most people that he will be the nominee hence he is the "presumed nominee"


Other answers have already addressed the point that the Republican National Convention will nominate a candidate, but I'd like to address an additional point.

(...) why does Google only consider him the likely nominee?

(Emphasis mine).

Because Google is just a search engine. The results they provide merely reflect what others on the Internet are writing about it.

Not only does Google not have a say in who the RNC will nominate, they aren't a media outlet either. While some journalists / bloggers / pundits may draw that conclusion, Google's job is not to draw conclusions, just to report back what can be found about a subject on the Internet.

  • That is NOT actually always the case, despite Google claiming so. They do actively curate search results, and tweak search algorithms (and do other, far more overt things) to influence discourse.
    – user4012
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 15:46

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