The seasoned lobbyist who’s helping Donald Trump round up delegates for the convention told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is employing “Gestapo tactics” to pull in delegates.
Paul Manafort, who managed delegates for Gerald Ford and has worked on subsequent GOP presidential campaigns, also worked on the campaign of Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia after being deposed in 2014. Manafort was hired by Trump last month.
Colorado GOP voters picked their delegates at precinct caucuses on March 1. Those delegates were swept up by Cruz at Saturday’s convention.
Trump tweeted yesterday, though: “How is it possible that the people of the great State of Colorado never got to vote in the Republican Primary? Great anger – totally unfair!”
“I acknowledge that we weren’t playing in Colorado when they did. I acknowledge that they’ve taken an approach to some of the county conventions, where they can scorch-earth policy and don’t care about the party. If they don’t get what they want, they blow it up,” Manafort said.
“That’s not going to work. And in fact, it’s all secondary games because when you’re talking about delegates, you have to distinguish between actual delegates or Trojan delegates, which are people that are committed to support someone on the first ballot, regardless of who they’re for.”
Manafort maintains Trump will be the “presumptive nominee” by mid-May.
“We’ve got to go through to June. We’ve got to wait until the process is done but I’m confident. We have several ways through June 7th to go over 1,237. And, you know, not counted in that at all are any of these unbound delegates, who are getting selected, many of whom I feel pretty good about,” he said.
He added that the real-estate mogul recognizes “a more traditional campaign has to take place” now given his front-runner status with two challengers.
“You would be surprised who’s been calling me over the last week and where they’re from. And you know, do I know the 25-, 30-year-old delegates? No. Do I know the people who push buttons in a lot of these states? Yes,” the delegate-wrangler continued.
“But that’s not even the point. There’s a lot of residual support for Donald Trump out there that just hasn’t been tapped. Whether it’s me or somebody else, it’s the process that matters. If you know how to use the process, the support is there.”
Asked about Trump ally Roger Stone’s promise to “disclose the hotels and the room numbers of those delegates who are directly involved in the steal” at a contested convention, Manafort replied, “Roger is not an official part of the campaign.”
Manafort alleged that threats are “Ted Cruz’s style, and that’s going to wear thin very fast.”
“He’s threatening — there — you go to his county conventions and you see the Gestapo tactics, the scorched-earth tactics,” he said. “We’re going to be filing several protests because the reality is, they are not playing by the rules. But, frankly, that’s the side game because the only game I’m focusing on right now is getting delegates.”
Host Chuck Todd asked what’s fair in securing a delegate. “Is paying for their convention costs? Is it golf club memberships? What’s fair and unfair in this? What’s ethical, what’s unethical?”
Manafort wouldn’t disclose what tactics the campaign planned to use.
“The key is, I think, for delegates coming up, especially the unbound delegates, is the electability question,” the convention manager continued. “And right now we’re in a fight. And this fight is, you know, causes the negative score for all the candidates. But there’s no question in my mind, there’s not one state you can look at that Romney lost in 2012 that Cruz can win. Not one.”