Cruz set to crush Trump in battle for Colorado's delegates

This shouldn’t seem surprising after all the reports of Trump’s disorganization at the state level, but it does. How was this guy so ill prepared for a convention battle when political pros have been warning that a convention battle was possible, if not likely, for about a month and a half? In fact, given the likely size of the field, some were predicting a brokered convention two years ago. (Case in point: Here’s Dave Catanese of U.S. News and World Report writing about the implications of Rule 40 … in March 2014.) Trump wasn’t part of the equation then but the dynamics were familiar enough — candidate A would sweep mainstream conservatives, candidate B would clean up with moderates, candidate C would consolidate conservatarians, and they’d all march on to Cleveland without a majority of delegates. It’s amazing that Team Trump apparently didn’t consider the possibility in gaming out his run this year. Is that a product of arrogance, or a product of Trump having never expected he’d be in a position to win?

Oh well. We are where we are, with Cruz shooting at an open net — for now. He’s already won six delegates in Colorado by out-organizing Trump there. The state convention, where the other 31 delegates will be chosen, is being held this weekend and it looks to be such a rout for Cruz — “There just doesn’t seem to be any Trump organization at all,” said one CO GOP operative — that Trump isn’t even planning to attend. He was supposed to show but he canceled in order to stay put and campaign in New York, which, under the circumstances, might make sense. If Colorado’s a lost cause, he’s better off doing what he can to run up the score in NY to offset his inevitable CO losses. Here’s how much better Team Cruz was than Team Trump in locking up those six delegates they’ve already won in the state:

State Rep. Justin Everett, who was picked as a Cruz delegate, said the campaign kept in constant contact with him and other candidates for delegate by phone and email. They helped draw up talking points for speeches, distributed pro-Cruz delegate slates, and briefed participating local officials to make sure they didn’t fracture support…

“It seems like an epic fail on the Trump campaign’s part,” he said. “I don’t see anyone organizing.”…

Joy Hoffman, chairwoman of the Arapahoe County GOP and an unaffiliated alternate delegate, said Cruz “networked like there’s no tomorrow” ahead of the congressional convention and built an “extraordinary” ground game early on.

As for Trump, there was little operation of which to speak. “It’s rather surprising,” she said.

If that’s not bad enough, a Republican strategist in Arizona told MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin that Cruz appears to be the only candidate aggressively organizing at the delegate level there too. Arizona is different from Colorado in that Trump won the primary there and will have 58 votes from its delegates on the first ballot, but if he doesn’t clinch on that ballot, they’re likely to desert in droves on the second thanks to Cruz’s efforts to place people loyal to him in those seats. The chairman of Trump’s campaign in Arizona claims that he didn’t realize until late March, when Team Cruz started organizing at district meetings, that Cruz might try to beat Trump at the convention by getting pro-Cruz delegates elected to the convention. Late March was a week ago.

There is some good news today for Trump fans, though: It sounds like Paul Manafort, Trump’s new (and very experienced) general in charge of delegate-wrangling, is fully committed to the campaign after meeting with Trump yesterday. There were reports that Corey Lewandowski was trying to bigfoot Manafort once he came aboard, even taking the drastic step of firing a deputy who was leading Trump’s organizational efforts in an important state because he’d been communicating with Manafort. That state? Er, Colorado. Politico claims Manafort was on the verge of quitting over that, but now comes news that Trump is planning to hire several “seasoned operatives” to help with the delegate fight and will open a new campaign office in D.C. with Manafort in charge. Cruz won’t be shooting at an open net for much longer.

Speaking of delegates, even a site as favorable to Trump as Breitbart is guesstimating that he’ll fall anywhere from 50 to 100 delegates short of 1,237 before Cleveland given the current trajectory of the race. But even if he does, Manafort and his team could be the difference between victory and defeat. More than a month will pass between the final primaries on June 7th and the start of the convention on July 18th. Unbound delegates can be wooed during that time, and delegates won over by Cruz can be won back. At least Trump is in the game now.

Update: Just released by Team Trump. Sure sounds like Corey Lewandowski is now really just campaign manager in name only, with all important duties reassigned to Manafort. I guess this answers the question of who won the power struggle.