With Donald Trump winning Florida on Super Tuesday 2 this week, it's easy to start freaking out a bit that we might have to deal with a very legitimate presidential run from Trump this fall.
Trump needs 1,237 delegates to become the GOP presidential nominee. But with Ted Cruz and John Kasich managing to win some states -- and especially with Kasich winning Ohio this Tuesday -- that's becoming a harder goal for anyone.
If Trump wins more states but doesn't manage to reach 1,237 delegates through the primary votes, which go on till June, the GOP has another mechanism it can use to keep him out of the presidential race.
It's called a contested, or brokered, convention.
If you try to get too into the details of how this works, it gets really confusing, so I'm going to keep this as simple as possible.
When you vote in a primary, you're voting for a person called a delegate to vote for a certain candidate at the party convention this summer.
Each state is given a certain number of delegates depending on a lot of weird, specific state rules. When the primary vote happens in each state, a certain amount of that state's delegates are assigned to candidates, depending, again, on a lot of weird, specific state rules. But we're keeping it simple, so don't worry too much about that.
All you need to know is that after all the states have had their votes, a certain amount of delegates have to vote for each candidate. If Trump does not get 1,237 delegates, things get interesting.
So let's say Trump doesn't get 1,237 delegates with the primary votes, and it's time for the Republican convention.
The convention is happening in Cleveland on July 18-21. At the convention, the delegate voting happens.
We're assuming that after the primary votes, neither Trump nor the other candidates have 1,237 delegates.
There are some delegates who don't have to vote for someone based on state primary votes -- they can vote for whomever they want. So we get to the convention and those wild cards get to cast their votes. Let's say they vote, but still no candidate passes the magical number 1,237.
Now what happens is some delegates can change who they're voting for.
Just who gets to switch sides depends, again, on a lot of weird, specific state rules.
The convention calls for another round of voting. Let's say all the delegates announce their new votes and still no one gets 1,237.
In that case, the side-switching and another round of voting happens again.
And again, and again, and again, until, eventually, a candidate reaches 1,237 delegates.
This is all supposing the Republican National Committee doesn't decide to change up the rules over the next few months.
In which case some of the confusing-specifics-that-we're-ignoring-to-keep-it-simple will further complicate things.
And then, finally, we get to the real presidential race.
Once both the Democratic and Republican conventions have decided on their nominee, those two will go head-to-head in a fight for the presidency, coming this fall.
This has been the longest, most complicated election ever, amirite?