A contested convention—for those of you who do not know—is a situation in which no single candidate has secured a majority of overall delegates, after the first vote for a political party’s presidential candidate at its national nominating convention. Essentially, a contested convention is an uncommon event that happens whenever no candidate for a party receives enough pledged delegates to receive that party’s nomination for the general election.
At a contested convention, delegates will essentially re-vote on whom to provide the nomination, with the frontrunner usually becoming the obvious choice. A number of other factors could also go into nominating a candidate, such as the experience of the candidate, favorability among voters, chance of success in the general election, and so on. In the Democratic race, superdelegates can change their vote at will, and support any candidate they want at any time.
Historically, contested conventions are a rarity, with the last notable convention occurring during the election of 1932, when then-Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt was short 170 delegates from securing the nomination. While competitor Al Smith closely followed FDR in the Democratic primary race, when the contested convention came to be, FDR easily won, being both the frontrunner and the more popular candidate. FDR then won the election of 1932 in a landslide.
Initially, as Donald Trump was, and still is, the GOP frontrunner and the most disliked candidate among Republican leadership, it was the attempt of candidates like Ted Cruz and John Kasich to divert delegates away from Trump and cause a contested convention. As Cruz and Kasich both dropped out of the race this past week, it has now become clear that Trump is the inevitable nominee.
On the Democratic side, it is still possible that Bernie Sanders could receive the nomination, though unlikely, but his success in the race could potentially cause a contested convention. If a Democratic contested convention were to come about, Sanders may have a better chance than opponent Hillary Clinton at receiving the nomination. While Clinton is the frontrunner and the more favorable choice among long-time Democrats, between her ongoing FBI investigation, her low favorability among voters, and her likelihood of losing against Trump in a general election, Clinton is clearly the weaker choice for the nomination.
Again, a contested convention in either case is unlikely, and the conventions in July may be as simple as nominating the frontrunner for either party. Either way, the presidential race has yet to have a dull moment.