Can Donald Trump clinch the nomination next week?

The primary season is about to shift into overdrive, with three caucuses and primaries this weekend, another one on Monday and then Super Tuesday, when primary voters in 15 states will cast their votes.

Polls suggest that former President Donald Trump is very likely to win most, if not all, of these contests. If those projections hold, Trump will have nearly clinched the Republican nomination — but not quite.

I spoke with Nate Cohn, The New York Times’s chief political analyst, about when Trump’s nomination could become a lock. (On the Democratic side, neither of Biden’s primary opponents — Dean Phillips or Marianne Williamson — has won a single delegate or appears poised to do so, so there is no real math to do.)

Nate, what are the basics of the delegate math?

The basics are simple: A candidate needs to win a majority of the 2,429 delegates to the Republican National Convention to become the party’s nominee. Those delegates are usually awarded state by state, based on primary and caucus results.

The complicated part is that the Republican rules allow states to decide how to award their delegates, and they take very different approaches — from awarding them proportionally based on a candidate’s share of the vote to allowing one candidate to receive every delegate if they win statewide.

Could Trump clinch the nomination on Super Tuesday?

It’s close, but the answer is no! By the end of Super Tuesday, just under half of delegates to the Republican convention will have been awarded, so, technically, it’s not possible for a candidate to win a majority by then. For good measure, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis won enough delegates in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states to prevent Trump from clinching even if he swept every Super Tuesday state.

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