Path to a Republican Presidency in 2017
The Republicans have a path where they do not need 270 electoral votes to retake the White House. They only need to prevent the Democratic nominee from reaching 270 delegates. Traditionally these two goals have been one and the same. Under a two party system, aside from tie (which is possible), one person will always win more than 270 of the 538 electoral votes. However, if a third party candidate were to win some states, a situation could arise in which no candidate receives the 270 votes necessary to become president.
In such a case it would be up to Congress to decide who would be president. The House would choose the president from among the top three presidential nominees and the Senate would choose the Vice President from among the Vice Presidential candidates. The last time this happened was in 1825.
Although they seem to lack control of their presidential candidates and the nominating process, Republicans control both houses of Congress. The party does not seem to care much for either candidate, and both would face a steep climb in a general election. The party (or the monied interests that fund them) could covertly support a third party candidate who would serve as the spoiler preventing anyone from reaching the majority of electoral votes. A Republican congress would elect the winners and the Republicans could get the candidate they wanted regardless of who wins the plurality of the electoral votes.
They don’t have the win the presidency, they just can’t afford to lose it.
Ironically the path the primaries in both parties are playing out mirrors what the Republican strategy could be: just stay alive, keep playing defense and hope you are alive in the 4th quarter. They stand little chance of winning outright, but using this strategy might just pull out the win. By controlling both houses of Congress, if the voters do not elect our next president, the Republican party will. This is their path.