While Donald Trump leads in delegates, it’s far from certain that he will obtain the needed 1237 delegates prior to the Republican convention. We may know whether Trump is on track to a majority after next Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary, or the New York primary on April 19.

If Trump falls short of that majority on the first ballot vote, even by one delegate, most of the delegates are released to vote as they want on the second and subsequent ballots.

The Trump campaign obviously fears that second ballot, because it is trying to create a narrative that if Trump is close to the majority of delegates, or leads others by a lot of delegates, he should be given the nomination. Anything less will be “stealing” the nomination from him.

Turning a plurality into a majority without actual delegate votes has no support in the most basic of convention rules, that an actual majority is needed to win. Trump predicted riots if he was close and didn’t get the nomination.

That Trump prediction is turning into action, with the call by Trump ally Roger Stone for “Days of Rage” to prevent Trump being deprived of the nomination:

A former adviser for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said Friday he is planning massive “days of rage” protests outside the Republican convention in Cleveland if the party tries to “steal” the nomination away from Mr. Trump.

Roger Stone, who left the Trump campaign in August, tweeted several times Friday evening about his plans, announcing a “Stop the Steal March on Cleveland” and calling on supporters to get to the city for the convention in July….

In addition, Mr. Stone told Buzzfeed that he is planning “#DaysofRage,” a reference to the 1969 Weatherman-organized Days of Rage protests in Chicago.

Mr. Stone said the protests will be “organized by Trump nation,” and that they will “stage protests at hotels of state delegates of states supporting the BIG STEAL.”

It’s curious that Stone referenced the “Days of Rage,” the 1969 anti-war protest organized by Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground in Chicago:

Stone made his call to action not only on Twitter, but on the Alex Jones show, where he tried to distinguish the two by calling for non-violence:

There is more than a little bit of irony that Stone uses the imagery of riots organized by Bill Ayers in 1969 to support Trump, when Ayers also participated in the protests that recently shut down Trump’s appearance in Chicago:

Language Warning

Of course, nothing is “stolen” from Trump if he has only a plurality of delegates on the first ballot, and loses on the second or subsequent ballots.

Is Trump’s obvious fear of a contested convention reasonable?

Nate Silver of 538 Politics thinks so:

….If Trump doesn’t win on the first ballot, he’s probably screwed.

The basic reason is simple. Most of the 2,472 delegates with a vote in Cleveland probably aren’t going to like Trump.

Let’s back up a bit. In most of our discussions about delegates here at FiveThirtyEight, we treat them as though they’re some sort of statistical unit. We might say a candidate “racked up 44 delegates” in the same way we’d say Steph Curry scored 44 points. But those delegates aren’t just a scoring mechanism: Delegates are people, my friends. Delegates are people!

And as I said, they’re mostly people who aren’t going to like Trump, at least if the excellent reporting from Politico and other news organizations is right….

There are various ways these delegates could cause problems for Trump. The most obvious, as I mentioned, is if the convention goes to a second ballot because no candidate wins a majority on the first. Not all delegates become free instantaneously,2 but most do, and left to vote their personal preference, most of them will probably oppose Trump.

Silver points out that even on the first ballot, Trump is not safe because the delegates can vote to unbind themselves, but he see’s that “nuclear option” as less likely:

The delegates have a lot of power, both on the convention floor and in the various rules and credentials committeesthat will begin meeting before the convention officially begins. If they wanted to, the delegates could deploy a “nuclear option” on Trump and vote to unbind themselves on the first ballot, a strategy Ted Kennedy unsuccessfully pursued against Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Although I’d place fairly long odds against this thermonuclear tactic, there’s also the possibility of piecemeal skirmishes for delegates.

I hope that there is a full-blown contested convention unless and until someone actually gets a majority of delegates.

Otherwise, it’s capitulation to the threats of riots and rage.

[Featured Image: Bill Ayers 1969, from video Days of Rage]