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Trump’s real problem? Math

Donald Trump likes to tout what a good dealmaker he is, and, by most financial metrics, that's clearly true. He knows how to get the best end of the deal.

But politics is as much art as it is science. And, right now, neither art nor science work in Mr. Trump's favor.

First, simple math dictates that unless something changes quickly for Donald Trump, he won't secure enough delegates before arriving at the RNC convention this July. Trump will need to win at least 58 percent of all remaining delegates and 65 percent of the remaining bound delegates (it is widely believed Trump will struggle with unbound delegates as these are often RNC members and other party regulars, but more on that later).

To date, Trump has won just shy of 46 percent of the total delegates. Even though he is the undisputed front-runner, he's not gaining a larger vote share as time marches forward. In Wisconsin, Trump won 35 percent of the vote, the same percentage he won in New Hampshire. Typically, the front-runner consolidates the party, garnering a higher percentage of the vote with each successive contest. That hasn't happened for Trump.


But, let's look at this more holistically. Thanks to the very smart Michael Meyers of www.targetpointconsulting.com, we have some great context for the uphill battle Mr. Trump faces. You could literally do hundreds — if not thousands — of scenarios on how this could play out. But here are just a few:

  • Trump could win every single bound delegate between now and June 7 and still not have enough delegates to win the GOP nomination. Sure, it's possible that he could do very well in California and the other states that vote on June 7, but politics is a game of momentum and right now, he's losing momentum.
  • Trump could win ALL the delegates in New York and New Jersey and win the MAJORITY (more than 50 percent) of delegates in Connecticut, Indiana, Washington, and California… and win THE MOST (but not the majority of) delegates in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Oregon, and New Mexico and still fall short of the 1237 threshold.

If you draw a circle, eventually two ends of the same line meet. That is what's happening in 2016. Even if neither candidate is his eventual party's nominee, their supporters will play an important role in shaping policy for years to come. Candidates from both parties will put pressure on Wall Street and we're likely to see higher taxes and more regulation. Trade deals will be harder to pass, including by a Republican Congress. We're also likely to see these voters give rise to future independent candidacies as these folks are often less ideological and less concerned with party politics.

2016 has felt mostly like a race to the bottom, but there's no doubt there will be huge implications by the booming candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Commentary by Sara Taylor Fagen, a partner at DDC Advocacy and a former political director for President George W. Bush. Follow her on Twitter @sarafagen2.

Disclosure: Fagen supports/advises Our Principles PAC, a group aimed at stopping Trump from winning the nomination.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.