APRIL 12, 2016
For Donald Trump, New York State has become “whine” country.
Tuesday began Trump’s third straight day of complaining about the shellacking his side took in this past weekend’s collection of state delegate conventions. At rally after rally, Trump complained that the entire nomination system is “corrupt” and “rigged” and that Ted Cruz “cheated” him out of delegates. What’s the story behind Trump’s latest hissy fit?
For the past few months, I’ve been writing about voting in the primaries and caucuses that have determined which candidates will get the convention delegates who will determine a party’s nominee. Turns out, though, there’s a third way to acquire delegates, and that’s through state delegate conventions.
Some states have opted not to hold a primary or a caucus at all, choosing instead party conventions whose attendees vote for slates of delegates representing the candidates running. It is then up to the campaigns to organize their supporters to attend the convention to vote that candidate’s delegate slate. (Prior to the widespread use of primaries starting in the 1970s, this was how most nominees were chosen.)
But what happened in Colorado on Saturday provided a vivid example of the power of organization.
34 delegates were up for grabs in Colorado, and the three remaining campaigns made their pitch to the voters. Ted Cruz took the time to address the convention in person, while the Trump and Kasich campaigns sent surrogates. Most significantly, the Cruz brigade had a delegate handling team in place in Colorado for the last 8 months for just this day. Trump appointed his chief delegate handler, veteran Paul Manafort, just last week!
The lack of preparation showed. The Cruz folks made sure to e-mail convention attendees in advance to remind them of the date and showing them exactly how the voting process works. At the convention, Cruz supporters distributed flyers that clearly showed the names of the Cruz delegate slate and their correct three-digit number position on the ballot containing over 600 names.
By contrast, the Trump effort was a comedy of errors. Their ballot flyer contained the names of the Trump delegates — one name was completely misspelled and the three-digit number attached to seven of the Trump names corresponded to different people entirely, including a Cruz delegate!
Final Colorado delegate total — Cruz wins all 34 delegates, Trump laid a goose-egg.
Let’s take this in for a second. This Trump staff represented a man who for months has assured us that if he’s elected President, he will only appoint the best of the best, people so good it will make our head spin. Our heads are spinning, all right, but if Trump somehow manages to get elected, I’d suggest that his first hire be a proofreader.
By Sunday, Trump’s tweeting fingers must have been aching, as the tweets came flying out of Trumpland like lightning. The first line of attack was “they’ve changed the rules because they knew I’d win.” That was quickly debunked as proof soon surfaced that the rules of the Colorado convention were put in place on August 1, 2015, way before the Trump roller coaster really got going. Then he tried “Ted Cruz must have cheated!” which prompted great ridicule among the chattering classes, since Trump offered no proof whatsoever.
By Tuesday, Trump finally settled on “The system is corrupt!” and “The rules are rigged against me!,” an argument that is actually playing well with his base voters, many of whom feel that the economic deck is stacked against them. It’s also a cagey play by Trump just in case he falls short of the 1,237 delegates he needs on the first ballot, and someone else goes on to get the nomination. Cries of “I told you the system was rigged last April!” will fill the air in Cleveland, and Trump will feel entirely justified in making life hell for the GOP in the near future.
But I must say that I find it staggeringly disingenuous (even for Trump!) that a candidate who is whining so loudly that the the rules are stacked against him has received 37% of the vote so far, yet the very same party rules that he’s crying about have given him 45% of the delegates to date! Call the waaambulance, for crying out loud.
Depending on how Trump plays this, this story may lead the news for a few more days — it’s always fun to see Trump play the “aggrieved victim” card — but by next Tuesday’s expected Trump landslide in the New York primary, rest assured that his “I’m the greatest” shtick will be back in full force.
But it’s been fun while it lasted.