The number is 1,237, but the road to the Republican nomination for the presidency goes through a political process so complicated that, in fact, the party may gather in Cleveland in July with no single candidate holding enough delegates to reach that magic number on the first official ballot.

What ensues in that case is termed a “brokered convention,” which results in bargaining, shifting loyalties and some old-fashioned horse trading to arrive at a choice for the nomination.

Voters who turned out in the New Hampshire snow and the caucuses of Iowa and those who are currently being courted by the candidates in South Carolina and Nevada, as well as the millions of television viewers who tuned in to primary night coverage might be excused if they believe that the vote of the man or woman in the street counts for much in the arcane world of the political process.

Those who are not involved with politics at its “nittiest” and “grittiest” and believe the vote of a committed Iowan or South Carolinian translates to pledged delegates at the national convention in July would be surprised to learn that the process is far more complicated than they could imagine.

Republican party rules require a candidate to win the majority of delegates in at least eight states/territories as a prerequisite to being nominated at the convention.

As the attention of the media focuses on the upcoming primaries, including the so-called “Super Tuesday” and “SEC Primaries,” where 689 delegates are up for grabs in 14 states, it may be that no candidate emerges with a majority of delegates.

“Winner-take-all” primaries are not allowed until after March 15th, but proportional states like Texas, Michigan and eight others grant all their delegates to the candidate who receives 50% of the vote, and require a candidate to receive a bare minimum percentage to receive any delegates at all.

Under that rule, if Senator [score]Ted Cruz[/score] reaches that threshold in Texas, his home state, he could conceivably pick up 10% of the magic number 1,237 in one night, while Dr. Ben Carson might receive zero delegates unless he crosses the required minimum.

While political operatives crunch the numbers in an endless variety of scenarios, the individual campaigns will focus on the voters district by district, precinct by precinct allocating their resources in search of the magic 1,237.

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