The funniest part of this is when he says the rules in Colorado were changed to help “a guy like Cruz.” In reality the rules were changed to block guys like Cruz. Colorado used to award its delegates via a caucus, but that backfired in 2012 when Rick Santorum upset Mitt Romney there. That’s how it tends to go with caucuses — unlike a statewide primary, they benefit well-organized candidates with a passionate grassroots following, both of which are hallmarks of Cruz’s campaign. When the rules were altered last August, decoupling the caucus from the process of awarding delegates, it was done with the intent of preventing another victory by an outsider — not just Trump but Cruz, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and so on. The hope, I’m sure, was that an establishment champion would emerge this year and would, by dint of his greater campaign resources and “insider” support,” be able to out-organize all of the insurgent candidates in electing delegates directly. Trump’s not wrong, in other words, to believe that the system was “rigged,” but it was rigged to try to hurt Cruz as much as to hurt him. So what happened? Cruz adapted and Trump didn’t. As the establishment candidates crumbled, Cruz got organized to target delegates at the state and district level while Trump glided on with his media-saturation campaign strategy. If Trump had been paying attention, he’d have brought Paul Manafort into the campaign the day after Colorado changed its rules, knowing that delegate-wrangling could end up playing a key role in claiming the nomination. He didn’t.
Which, says Ben Domenech, raises the question: If Trump can’t anticipate his opponents’ moves in a straightforward game like this, where the rules are written down and publicly available, how’s he going to do with foreign policy?
There have been plenty of examples of Ted Cruz being a savvy tactician during the 2016 cycle, but this Colorado disaster for Trump was not one of them, any more than Trump irritating everyone on the abortion issue was Cruz’s fault, or Trump driving up his negatives with women to “you will never get this rose” territory was Cruz’s fault. This is another own-goal where America’s king of the deal seems uninterested in doing the actual work to make the deal happen. Even a modicum of preparation could’ve landed Trump several delegates from Colorado – instead, he and his team appear uninterested in doing the work everyone has been reporting for weeks that they need to do in order to win.
For their part, the Trump team is vowing to win a delegate majority before the convention. But they have now experienced serious setbacks in South Carolina, Iowa, Indiana, North Dakota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Georgia. In each of these cases, Trump’s setbacks would not have been as significant if he had simply paid attention to how the delegate process works.
“[T]wo key Trump claims have fallen apart thanks to his inability to fight for delegates properly, writes Ben Shapiro: “[H]e’s not a great dealmaker, and he doesn’t hire all the very best people.” Pay attention to the clip below, in fact, and you’ll find Trump complaining at one point about the process of wooing delegates, “They offer him trips, they offer him all sorts of things, and you’re allowed to do that.” That’s the second-funniest moment here. The billionaire who wrote “The Art of the Deal,” who’s bragged for months about how shrewd he was in buying influence with pols like Hillary Clinton by cutting them big checks for donations, is now whining that it’s unfair to dangle goodies in front of political actors to get them to do your bidding.
If anything, in fact, the delegate-wrangling process should be a godsend for Trump. It moves the race out of the ballot box, where he’s vulnerable to a surge of #NeverTrump votes as the primaries near their conclusion, to the backroom, where he can work his fatcat dealmaking magic. In practice, Cruz is beating the pants off of him, something that should never happen per the mystique that surrounds Trump of being a master negotiator. Noah Rothman claimed this morning that the fact that two of Trump’s kids failed to register in New York as Republicans in time to vote in this year’s primary is a microcosm of Trump’s disorganization generally, which is fair enough. But I’d add to that that him getting consistently beaten by Cruz at the delegate level is a microcosm of how Trump’s image as wheeler-dealer extraordinaire is oversold. An ingenious salesman should not be at this sort of chronic disadvantage against a guy who’s not very personally likable, whose methods are loathed by the establishmentarians who “rigged” the system, and who’s operating at a financial handicap compared to Trump. But he is. How come?
And one more thing. Why doesn’t Trump ever talk about the ways in which the system has been “rigged” to benefit him?
Trump now leads the Republican field with 756 delegates — or 45 percent of all delegates awarded to date. Yet he has won about 37 percent of all votes in the primaries, according to the NBC analysis, meaning Trump’s delegate support is greater than his actual support from voters.
For each percentage point of total primary votes that Trump has won, he has been awarded 1.22 percent of the total delegates…
By contrast, Cruz has been awarded about 1.14 percent of the delegates for each percentage point of votes he has won — a delegate bonus of 14 percent above his raw support…
Taken together, the data show Trump has been awarded 8 percent more delegates than Cruz for the same rate of voter support.
Trump’s delegate lead over Cruz, in other words, is bigger proportionally than his actual vote lead over Cruz thanks to the “bonus” delegates he’s won by winning more states than Cruz has. If you’re an advocate of strict, straightforward democracy, where every vote counts the same, then Trump’s lead is bigger than it “should be” and the size of his delegate lead is “unfair” to Cruz. But it’s ridiculous to object to that, of course, for the simple reason that those rules were clear from the beginning. Delegate bonuses for statewide winners were always part of the process. If Cruz has failed to claim them, well, that’s his problem for failing to execute. Same goes for Trump at the delegate level. He could have built the best, biggest, classiest delegate-wrangling outfit in the field but he neglected to do so, thinking that he’d stomp Cruz at the ballot box and render all of that irrelevant. He failed to execute, most notably in Wisconsin. That, I think, is the ultimate objection to Trump on democratic grounds: Why are we even talking about delegates now? Why, if he has this unstoppable movement, is he still struggling to break 40 percent in many states when the only alternatives are unlikable Ted Cruz and, um, John Kasich? A brokered convention can’t happen unless every candidate — every candidate — fails to notch a critical level of support. Trump hasn’t failed yet. But he probably will.