Cruz Campaign's Masterful Performance at GOP State Conventions
The Ted Cruz campaign showed once again its mastery over the Trump campaign, sweeping 14 delegates in Wyoming at the state convention, while picking off delegates at state conventions in South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia.
The events capped off three remarkable weeks for Cruz in the sort of cloistered party meetings where grass-roots organizers can dominate. Cruz, the only Republican candidate to campaign in Wyoming, told delegates here that their votes could help him win “a battle in Cleveland,” where the party may host its first contested convention in 40 years.
“If you don’t want the convention in Cleveland to hand the election to Hillary Clinton — which is what a Donald Trump nomination does — I ask you to support this slate,” Cruz said.
These conventions came after Trump had spent much of the week panning Colorado for using a similar system to award 34 total delegates. As in Wyoming, activists had gathered at little-hyped local conventions, won places at the state convention, then voted for the national delegates — all while giving Cruz nine of the Wyoming delegates available in the March 1 county caucuses.
The GOP front-runner complained that the contest had been “rigged” against him, a charge that Colorado Republican leaders strongly denied, noting that they’d been using the same system since the 2004 presidential election.
“Look at what happened in Wyoming,” Trump told supporters in Syracuse, N.Y., while 475 Republicans in Casper’s Parkway Plaza convention center were marking their ballots. “Look at what’s happening in Colorado, where the people never got a chance to vote and they’re going nuts out there. They’re angry — the bosses took away their vote.”
Trump’s campaign was late to recognize the importance of the state conventions, much less the local contests that determined who could vote at those state conventions. In Wyoming, that effectively meant that Trump’s supporters were arriving at a marathon where Cruz had already run the first 25 miles.
On Thursday, Sarah Palin canceled a planned trip to speak on Trump’s behalf in Casper. On Friday night, Palin called a pro-Trump delegate candidate, Clara Powers, and encouraged her to take the slot. She did so, getting a polite reception and closing with a poem about how the party establishment would try to steal the vote in Cleveland.
“We know how Wyoming is going to go,” Trump senior adviser Paul Manafort conceded in an interview before the vote.
Manafort said that the Cruz campaign’s success in winning delegate assignments “confuses the issue” of Trump’s overall lead in the GOP race. “There are places where we’re going to make up for what we’re losing — in terms of bodies, not votes,” Manafort said.