The GOP Race Is Not Just A Beauty Contest: Trump, Bush Will Need Delegates

By Brendan James @deep_beige on September 27 2015 6:46 PM EDT

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush already is linking up convention delegates. Pictured: Bush speaks during the Heritage Action for America presidential candidate forum in Greenville, South Carolina, on Sept. 18, 2015. Reuters/Chris Keane

Polls don't tell the whole story of the Republican presidential election. Despite his love for citing the numbers and his mastery at courting the press, Donald Trump may need to start getting his ground game together if he wants to make it any further along the road to the White House. Soon, debates and surveys will give way to actual primaries, caucuses and delegate counting.

The eventual nominee will have to gobble up a total of 1,235 delegates by the party's national convention in Cleveland July 18. Airtime, polls and even votes in some states won't be enough to make that happen.

Take Illinois, for example, whose complicated ballot qualifications require a proactive strategy rather than popularity. Despite his recent dip in the polls, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has a serious campaign presence in that state, as Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this month. Unlike Bush, Trump has no real footprint in the state where delegates pledged to specific candidates are elected in their own right.

Trump may be popular, but delegates-in-waiting may not want to associate with him if they have been cultivating relationships with other candidates, or if they're worried whether he will make inflammatory statements that could burn them, the Sun-Times reported.

Soon anyone serious about securing the state's delegates will be vying for the favor of well-known local figures in Illinois' congressional districts who may end up running as delegates.

Bush is already connecting with potential kingmakers in Illinois, and if the other candidates are in it to win, they will have to catch up. A Republican operative pledged to Bush told the paper he was approached by Trump supporters and balked.

“Somebody hit me up ... asking me if I wanted to do Trump,” he said. “I told them I was taken.”

Conversely, some states do plan to use the primary beauty contest to allocate their delegates. The Washington state GOP recently decided to do so, the Renton Reporter reported.

“This is a big win for the voters of Washington,” Secretary of State Kim Wyman said. “For months, I have been urging both parties to use the presidential primary results.”

In North Carolina, a bill is waiting to be signed into law that would change the Republican National Committee's rules concerning the state's 72 delegates. House Bill 373 would award all the delegates to any candidate that wins a plurality of votes, the Winston-Salem Journal reported Sunday.

North Carolina comes after California, with 172 delegates in the balance, Texas, with 155, Florida at 99, New York at 99, and Georgia with 76.

Florida and California are "winner-take-all" states in which the statewide winner takes all the delegates, no matter by what margin and with what percentage of the vote. New York is the same so long as a candidate takes at least 50 percent of the vote, otherwise it awards delegates proportionally. Georgia uses a mixed system, while Texas uses a proportional system.