If you watched CNN or Fox News on March 15th, you were told repeatedly that the GOP primary was over, and that Donald Trump had won. This was a message that Donald Trump took to heart as he ignored the delegate selection process, under the assumption that he would definitely get to the 50% threshold.
Meanwhile, Ted Cruz did what he has done throughout this entire campaign: he went to work. He and his campaign began the process of ensuring a backup plan in case no candidate crossed the delegate threshold. They understood even then that a contested convention was a likely outcome.
About a month later, Trump has finally caught up to Ted Cruz in realizing what’s in store in Cleveland, and so he’s hired a crack team led by alleged former Russian mob affiliate Paul Manafort to help him stanch the bleeding. Unfortunately, it did not work. 90 delegates were up for grabs yesterday, many of whom were from territory that Trump won on election day. Early estimates are the Cruz locked down at least 50 of these slots, with Trump getting less than 20.
Local and statewide Republican party organizations around the country held about about 20 conventions and caucuses to elect national delegates, with more than 90 slots up for grabs in a shadow primary process that Trump has blasted as “rigged” against him. The contests, open only to registered Republican voters — and in some cases, only to party insiders — identify individuals to fill delegate slots earned by candidates in state primaries and caucuses. Who these delegates are is crucial: Though party rules require them to vote according to the will of their states’ voters at first, most are able to vote freely if the convention deadlocks and it requires multiple rounds of balloting to pick a nominee.
So far, Cruz has dominated these delegate selection battles, even in states Trump won handily in the primary. Though Trump won all 50 delegates in South Carolina in a Feb. 20 primary, for example, many are poised to abandon him for Cruz on a second ballot. And now, in Georgia, where Trump crushed his rivals and earned 42 of 76 delegates on primary day, dozens are set to abandon him for Cruz as soon as they can.
On Saturday, the Texas senator won 32 of 42 delegate slots available in Georgia, according to former Rep. Jack Kingston, a Cruz supporter. And John Kasich, who finished last in that primary, scored a delegate as well — state Sen. Bill Cowsert — his campaign confirmed.
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But the rest of the day went terribly for Trump. In Wyoming, Cruz scored all 14 delegates on the ballot at a state convention, giving him 23 of the state’s 29 slots overall. Trump earlier on Saturday ripped the Wyoming contest on Fox & Friends and said he didn’t bother to compete there because decisions were being made by “the bosses.”
This is why Trump is going to lose, and it has nothing to do with “party bosses” favoring Ted Cruz (of all people). In fact, “party bosses” probably hate Cruz as much or more than Trump. The reason Trump is going to lose is that he’s never understood that he needed to do anything other than rile up supporters who were already committed to him.
While Trump has said about a billion times “I can be Presidential,” he’s never done anything to show that he actually can be Presidential. While Trump has said “I will beat Hillary” about a billion times, he continues to say and do things that cause him to slide in head to head polling against Hillary.
And so as much as the “party bosses” hate Cruz, they are terrified of what Trump will do to the whole party down ticket if Trump is the nominee. And they are right to be so terrified. Trump has done a great job of getting about 10% of the country very committed to him. Unfortunately, over 70% of the country hates his guts. And that’s a direct result of what Trump himself has said and done during this campaign.
And he also is unable to actually hire the best people because no one who is actually a quality political operator wants to be associated with his traveling clown show. His current campaign (and surrogates) know good and well that if Trump doesn’t win the nomination, they are going to be walking around with a giant scarlet “T” on their chest for life, which is part of the reason that they’re willing to resort to anything (including encouraging violence) if Trump loses.