UVA Expert Shares Convention Insights on ‘The Daily Show’

Kyle Kondik is the managing editor of “Sabato’s Crystal Ball,” the weekly election analysis from UVA’s Center for Politics. He regularly offers his political expertise in the national media.

A presidential election year means a waterfall of political fodder for “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” but to reveal the truth behind its hardest-hitting zingers, the show often turns to the experts. On Monday’s episode, that expert was Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“The show calls us from time to time to provide background on certain things, but this is my first time appearing on camera. [University Professor and director of the Center for Politics] Larry Sabato has appeared before,” said Kondik, who manages the center’s Washington office and serves as managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the center’s nonpartisan website that offers detailed analyses for elections across the country.

Watch the full video on Comedy Central's site. 

Kondik appeared on “The Daily Show” as part of a taped segment with correspondent Ronny Chieng, discussing the rules of upcoming national conventions for both parties, and specifically opining about the possibility of a contested Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.

“There are so many aspects of the convention process that can be hard to understand and can ultimately become more undemocratic if they go through multiple ballots,” Kondik said. “The person who wins the most votes is not necessarily guaranteed to get the nomination.”

Kondik and associate editor Geoffrey Skelley speculated about this possibility in an April 28 Crystal Ball analysis of the Republican delegate count. To win the nomination by an outright majority, current frontrunner Donald Trump needs to pick up 1,237 delegates. However, if Trump wins the important Indiana primary on Tuesday night over Sen. Ted Cruz, he will be one big step closer to wrapping up the nomination on the first ballot.

They wrote, “Cruz probably should win Indiana, but to us it’s very much an open question as to whether he will. If Cruz doesn’t, all of his maneuvering behind the scenes to secure the support of delegates who could support him on a second ballot at the convention might be for naught, because there might not be the need for a second ballot: Trump could be wrapping it up on the first.”

According to the New York Times, the GOP delegate count heading into the Indiana vote stood at Trump with 956 delegates, Cruz with 546 and John Kasich with 173.

Kondik and Skelley argue that if Trump falls short of 1,237 by 100 or more delegates, then the likelihood of an extremely rare contested convention greatly increases. The last contested Republican convention was in 1948, so most people haven’t even witnessed one in their lifetime. “The Daily Show” segment zeroes in on the arcane rules and bargaining that will go into effect if the July convention has to go into more than one round of voting.

If multiple ballots are required, delegates might become unbound from the results of their state primaries and vote their conscience, Kondik said.

“Just because someone is a bound delegate for Trump doesn’t mean that person in their heart of hearts supports Trump,” he said.

The small number of unbound delegates and delegates won by candidates who later dropped out could also provide the make-or-break votes needed to stop Trump or propel him to a clear majority.

In his interview, Kondik tried to bring some clarity to these different voting scenarios, but left it up to Chieng to find the humor in the rather convoluted nomination process.

“The interview is a combination of gags and substantive questions,” Kondik said. “I generally tried to play it straight and let Ronny make the jokes.”

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