At Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia this weekend, college students participated in a time-honored tradition, holding a mock convention to predict who would win the Republican presidential nomination this summer.
The convention, which dates back to the early years of the 20th century, is used to predict the nominee of the party not currently in the White House. It hasn’t been infallible, but its record is nothing to sneeze at; out of 25 conventions, the university has successfully predicted the correct nominee 19 times. Since 1948, they’ve only missed twice.
This year, if the students are right, Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. The real estate mogul won 1,320 delegates, enough to handily beat his closest competition, Ted Cruz, who only scored 652 delegates. Marco Rubio came in third with 399.
Trump graciously accepted the prediction in a phone call Saturday night. “I’ve been hearing about this for many years, and I know your track record is extraordinary – better than anybody’s,” Trump said. “I will do my best to keep it intact.”
Trump’s competitors probably aren’t going to suspend their campaigns in light of the Washington and Lee results, but it’s one more sign of how quickly this election has gotten out of the RNC’s control. Even Trump’s early supporters doubted his ability to crack the establishment stranglehold last summer. After his decisive win in New Hampshire, though, only the most stubborn Republicans refuse to admit that he might indeed take down the whole shebang.
After months and months of coverage, it’s easy to forget how unlikely this all once seemed. In any other year, Trump would be debuting a new season of Celebrity Apprentice right about now. Instead, he’s extremely close to becoming the next president of the United States. And if he can actually pull it off, it’s no exaggeration to say we will have witnessed one of the most extraordinary political events in the country’s history.
Even if Trump ultimately falls short of the White House, his movement will not be soon forgotten. Clearly, there is much more to this than Trump himself. He was certainly a well-known celebrity before this, but he didn’t have the kind of built-in fan support that would have made a run like this more easily imaginable. His penchant for wild statements, his sense of humor, and his refusal to apologize have helped him dominate the media for the last eight months, but the Washington resentment fueling his campaign was already there. It just needed a figurehead.