Internal Trump campaign memo: He'll win 1,400 delegates on the first ballot

A little day-after spin from Team Trump to try to convince voters in Indiana and California that further resistance is futile. The number here is meant to be outlandish to impress people with how confident he is. “1,400? I thought he was having trouble getting to 1,237!” But I think he could hit 1,400 — sort of. If he finishes the primaries with 1,200 delegates in the bank and then persuades another 37 unbound delegates to support him before the convention, he’ll make a big show of it before everyone is seated in Cleveland. “I won!” he’ll say. “Now, let’s come together as a party.” If he can prove that he has commitments from those 37 delegates via a written pledge, the remaining 150-200 unbound delegates at the convention will think hard about whether they should support him too. If he’s destined to win on the first ballot, why send him into the general election with the bare minimum of votes he needs to become nominee? Why not support him and give him a comfortable margin of victory so he can at least pretend that the party’s uniting behind him?

In fact, it may be the case that Trump can only win with 1,400 delegates or some otherwise comfortable margin, not with 1,237. The reason is that Cruz’s never-say-die campaign will work until the very last minute before the first ballot to try to flip delegates who are leaning Trump. Trump needs some margin of error in case Cruz succeeds at that. The way to produce that margin is to convince the entire body of delegates well in advance that he has the nomination mathematically locked up and therefore even the unbound delegates who dislike him should back him in the name of party unity. If he can do that, there may be simply too many delegates to flip for Cruz to hold Trump under 1,237.

The memo refers to the campaign’s staff shakeup, with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s power diminished and newly-hired adviser Paul Manafort assuming broad control over the campaign’s strategy and its enhanced budget. It reads, “Building out our campaign staff to make sure we leave no stone unturned and that we can win this thing on the up and up — not through a rigged set of rules.”…

“The Cruz spin machine produces more lies than anything else,” the memo reads. “Our projections call for us to accumulate over 1400 delegates and thus a first ballot nomination win in Cleveland.”…

The 1,165-word memo was distributed via e-mail to a blind list of surrogates and other supporters by Trump aide Erica Freeman. Spokeswoman Hope Hicks as well as Rick Gates, a Manafort deputy, were copied on the message. The campaign has been sending similar memos almost daily for the past couple of weeks, another sign that the operation is maturing into a more traditional political operation under Manafort’s leadership.

Belated congratulations, by the way, to Corey Lewandowski on being promoted from campaign manager to scheduler and “body man,” a role in which he’ll now compete with Chris Christie as chief jacket-holder for “Mr. Trump.” I think Lachlan Markay’s right, though, that Lewandowski will have the last laugh on #NeverTrumpers, who, by marginalizing him, inadvertently cleared space within the campaign for the more professional Paul Manafort. With Lewandowski still in charge, Trump might well still be his old self, popping off on Twitter about how supposedly ugly Cruz’s wife is and promoting the occasional tweet from one of his white-supremacist supporters. (Oops, he’s still doing that.) Manafort, though, seems to have convinced Trump to turn down the heat on his rhetoric and is looking to professionalize Trump’s messaging operation:

Presumably Katrina Pierson will soon join Lewandowski on scheduling duties. Anyway, WaPo was very impressed indeed with Trump’s sober, low-key victory speech last night, presumably another example of Manafort’s influence. Critics like me have been razzing Trump for not pivoting to a more presidential-ish approach sooner, but the more I think about that, the more I wonder what we can realistically expect if he tried. He could stop retweeting white supremacists, sure, but is he … not going to attack Hillary and Bill savagely and derisively this fall? Because his fans are not only expecting him to do that, they’re practically demanding it. (“He fights! He doesn’t play by politically correct rules!”) If he tones things down, is that suddenly going to shake loose hundreds of millions of dollars from Republican donors who look all set right now to walk away from the election? If it doesn’t, what does he do then? Trump’s entire political strategy is to own the media by handing them more shiny objects than they know what to do with. If he’s more subdued on the trail, they’ll be less interested; that’s tolerable if he’s making up for the lost coverage with plenty of ads, but how’s he paying for the ads if big donors are holding out on him? He really may have no choice but to go whole-hog on his Trumpy loose-cannon persona if he wants to counter Hillary’s paid media advantage. Besides, if Trump isn’t doing his insult-comic shtick, what’s he going to talk about? He’s not winning a general election by mumbling about “the wall” and stopping Muslims from entering the country and then spending the other 97 percent of the time repeating that we’re going to do so much winning, you’re going to vomit blood from all the winning. That works, sad to say, when it’s mostly Republicans who are voting. When you open it up to the general electorate, against an opponent who (whatever her many faults) knows how to debate, it won’t.

In lieu of an exit question, go read Michael Dougherty on how and why the Republican Party is doomed. At least this year.