If Newt Gingrich fails to win five states, he might not be eligible in the first round of voting at the Republican National Convention.
That doesn't mean he can't be the nominee, and it may not even complicate his chances any further than they already have been. But with Gingrich vowing to fight on until the GOP's convention in Tampa, it bears mentioning that he could enter that convention without his name on the first ballot.
So far, Gingrich has won only two states: South Carolina and his home state of Georgia.
A Republican Party rule specifies that a candidate must win "plurality" support from five states to be nominated in Tampa, Fla.:
"Each candidate for nomination for
President of the United States and Vice President of the
United States shall demonstrate the support of a
plurality of the delegates from each of five (5) or more
states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of
that candidate for nomination."
Procedures will be in place before the convention for candidates to demonstrate support from five states, an RNC official confirmed. So, although it seems counterintuitive, this measure will be taken before voting begins.
If Gingrich fails to meet the five-state threshold, he won't be eligible for the nomination when the convention begins. No delegate will be able to nominate him for the nomination, technically, on the convention floor.
This rule doesn't nix Gingrich's chances, even if he fails to win five states. Effectively, anyone can win the GOP's nomination in Tampa, without having won or even campaigned in a single state
If no candidate wins on the first round of voting, primary and caucus results will matter progressively less. Some states' delegates are bound by primary results only through the first round of convention voting. Others' are bound through the second and third.
If Gingrich enters the convention ineligible, he can still win on later rounds of voting.
An RNC official acknowledged that on later rounds of voting, it would be possible for a motion to be made to nominate a candidate who did not qualify on previous rounds. Essentially, the nomination-for-the-nomination process begins anew. At that point, a new candidate could demonstrate plurality support from five states and qualify.
Gingrich, or anyone else who can demonstrate support from five states on a later voting round - Ron Paul? Chris Christie? Sarah Palin? Mike Bloomberg? Dennis Kucinich? - will be eligible to win the nomination.
It also bears mentioning that Gingrich wouldn't have to win five primaries or caucuses to demonstrate support from five states. No delegates from Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, Maine, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Montana are bound to their state results, meaning they can support whomever they choose.
So if Gingrich intends to keep running until the convention, even if he never wins another state, he'll continue to be a technically viable candidate under party rules.