Whatever you want to say against Ted Cruz, the excellence of his campaign operation is unarguable.
The Cruz team has stood head and shoulders above any other national campaign in either party and the Texas senator just might be rewarded with the nomination because of it.
The Cruz delegate wrangling operation literally ran rings around the Trump team in Colorado this weekend, giving the candidate 21 more delegates and a chance for more. This comes after another stellar performance by the Cruz team in North Dakota last weekend.
Slates loyal to Cruz won every assembly in Colorado’s seven congressional districts, which began April 2 and culminated Friday with 12 delegates selected. The Texas senator is well-positioned to pad his total Saturday, when 13 more delegates will be chosen at Colorado Republicans’ state convention.
Of Cruz’s delegates, only 17 were formally pledged to him, and in theory the other four could change their vote in Cleveland. But they were all included on the senator’s slates and are largely state party officials who said they were barred from signing a formal pledge for Cruz but have promised to back him in balloting at the convention.
The result shows how Cruz’s superior organization has helped him as he tries to catch up with front-runner Donald Trump. While Cruz’s campaign spent months recruiting slates of delegates and securing pledges, Trump only this week hired a Colorado state director. Two candidates Trump’s campaign told backers to support in one district were not even on the ballot.
The Trump campaign said it wasn’t worried and had always expected to fare poorly in Colorado because its assembly process is dominated by party insiders. “If we had a primary, yes, we would have done very well here,” said Trump senior adviser Alan Cobb.
Cruz also appeals to Colorado Republican activists who dominate party functions — a deeply conservative, religious crowd with a libertarian streak.
“Coloradans, naturally having that pioneer spirit, gravitate toward someone like Cruz,” said State Rep. Justin Everett, one of Cruz’s pledged delegates.
Contrast the hustle of the Cruz team with what happened to Trump in Washington state.
Donald Trump’s team is encouraging its supporters in Washington state to sign up to be a potential Trump delegate. The only problem: The campaign’s local crew sent its email on Friday — two days after the filing deadline to appear on the printed ballot in Saturday’s conventions and caucuses.
The email, headlined “invitation,” encouraged supporters to submit their Declaration of Candidacy for Delegate form. But the very next sentence says the filing deadline was Wednesday.
“You can still be elected as a Trump Delegate at your GOP County Convention this Saturday!” the April 8 email, which was obtained by POLITICO, says. “If you have submitted a Declaration of Candidacy for Delegate form to your GOP County Chairman by the assigned deadline of 10:00am on April 6th.”
While it appears the Trump campaign dropped the ball on the deadline to appear on the printed ballot, the billionaire’s supporters can still try their hand at being nominated from the floor.
According to Caleb Heimlich, executive director of the Washington state Republican Party, any convention or caucus (the counties are hosting them on a rolling basis from March 12 to April 16) has a filing deadline 72 hours before the event in order to appear on the ballot.
“It is too late to be on the printed ballot for the ones this Saturday,” Heimlich said.
Cruz has gotten the jump on Trump just about everywhere. Recognizing his problem, Trump hired a savvy old pro to oversee his delegate selection and convention strategy. Paul Manafort is a 30-year veteran of the sort of political combat that occurs in the trenches and will no doubt prove himself a valuable asset – just as soon as he gets organized.
Meanwhile, Cruz will continue to win delegates out west. But Trump has a clear advantage in the upcoming eastern primaries later this month with a possible sweep of contests in New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Cruz should win some delegates in the races where there is proportional divvying up of delegates. But Maryland and Pennsylvania are winner-take-all primaries and Cruz will be hard-pressed to be competitive in both of them.