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November 24th, 2017

Insight

Trump thinks it's time to label him the 'presumptive nominee.' Nope.

Callum Borchers

By Callum Borchers

Published April 28, 2016

Trump thinks it's time to label him the 'presumptive nominee.' Nope.

Photo by The Washington Post, Jabin Botsford

Donald Trump was back to his Trump-y self after a five-state sweep on Tuesday, and the boast of the night was one he had previously declined to make: "I consider myself the presumptive nominee."


Flashback to Super Tuesday, another good day for the Republican presidential front-runner: All he would say then was "I feel awfully good" when asked twice during a victory news conference if it was time to break out the p-word, "presumptive."


Clearly, Trump has gained confidence in the last eight weeks - and rightfully so. In that time, he has knocked out GOP rivals Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, and built a significant delegate lead.


But it's still too early for the media to dub Trump the presumptive nominee. In calling for the mantle on a night when he completely dominated, Trump was selling the notion that his victories fundamentally changed the race.


They didn't.


Trump was heavily favored in all five states, meaning all the talk before Tuesdayabout a contested convention included the assumption that he would run the table in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland.


To be precise, my colleague Philip Bump projected that Trump would collect between 106 and 109 delegates along the I-95 corridor. The Associated Press had him at 105 late Tuesday, with seven still to be allocated. At most, Trump will exceed his anticipated range by a measly four delegates. That's not exactly a game-changer.


Trump had a very good night, but - mathematically speaking - he's pretty much right where we expected him to be. He still needs to win a majority of the remaining delegates to reach the magic number of 1,237. He can't get there before California votes on June 7, meaning he'll still have to sweat it out until the final day of the primary season. A contested convention remains a realistic possibility.

Now, setting the math aside for a moment, there might be intangible benefits to Trump's wide margins of victory on Tuesday. In Pennsylvania, for instance, where 54 delegates are unbound by the results, the billionaire's overwhelming popularity could put pressure on those free agents to honor the will of the electorate.


Similarly, the media will be forced to give Trump credit for an impressive showing that proved he can win majorities, not merely pluralities - something political analysts have doubted his ability to do. Trump has argued for a while that it would be unjust to deny him the nomination at a contested convention, should he come up just short of 1,237. Journalists - even those who have covered him toughly - might be more inclined to agree after seeing the way he walloped his rivals on Tuesday.


But they shouldn't refer to him as the presumptive nominee yet. Trump still has work left to do before he can earn that title.

Previously:


04/25/16: The 'nasty effect,' and why Donald Trump supporters mistrust the media
03/07/16: Even Trump's favorite TV hosts, Scarborough and Bill O', can't avoid feuding with him
03/04/16: Mitt Romney: Media darling?
03/02/16: Donald Trump: The King of the 'No Comment'
02/29/16: Why this new media narrative could actually, for once, hurt Donald Trump
02/26/16: Why haven't Trump's tax returns, Clinton's speech gotten the Romney treatment?
02/08/16: In media coverage of Chelsea Clinton, the kid gloves are still on

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