By the time Wednesday morning rolls around we’ll have a better picture of where the delegate situation stands, but one thing is already a given: Neither Ted Cruz nor John Kasich will be anywhere near 1,237 pledged delegates when we get to Cleveland. Trump might but he’s going to need some strong tailwinds in Indiana and California to pull it off.
The Cruz strategy is obvious and he’s made no secret of it. He’ll try to land as many delegates as he can in states where actual elections are held and then negotiate to embed the maximum possible number of fake Trump delegates who will vote for The Donald on the first ballot and then reveal their true loyalty to Cruz (versus the will of their state’s voters) on a subsequent count. It might work, but as Fox News notes this weekend, it’s hardly a risk free strategy.
Even if Cruz is able to force a contested convention by keeping Trump from reaching the magic 1,237 number, he is counting on delegates both having the strength to vote to reject Trump in the face of significant pressure from the campaign and Trump supporters, and then moving to Cruz after they are unbound.
While the strategy seems to have its merits, the question of whether delegates will back him could be complicated by recent threats made to both GOP party officials and delegates themselves, allegedly by Trump supporters.
Much of the article focuses on the perceived threat of violence at the convention by Trump supporters and we can’t rule out large protests as one factor which may be on the delegates’ minds. But there’s a deeper issue hiding below the surface. Even if the convention goes off without so much as a single incident of pushing or shoving, there’s no assurance that these delegates will be true to their word when it comes time to vote.
“This is where I think Cruz is being taken for a ride,” [Trump advisor Barry] Bennett said. “The establishment is using him because they want to get to the second ballot, and then they’ll pretend they’ve never heard of him.”
Kasich could also cause problems among some unbound delegates for Cruz also. In Pennsylvania, where a primary is held Tuesday, delegates are not bound to any candidate either, but Cruz’s campaign has been working hard behind the scenes to get his people in place.
Be careful what you wish for. In a parallel situation, one note of caution I’ve issued to people hoping for a new constitutional convention is that once the beast is unleashed you never know what might happen next or what groups might jump up with plans which you completely oppose. There may be a similar scenario waiting at a contested convention for supporters of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Keep in mind that Cruz is very “popular” today with many party insiders around the country, but much of that is because he’s the last, best hope to stop Trump. Yet it wasn’t so long ago that anyone with a career in the dreaded GOP establishment wouldn’t spit on Cruz’s head if his hair were on fire. (I mean, it’s not as if any high ranking party members were joking about murdering him on the Senate floor or taking cyanide rather than voting for him, right?)
As anyone who has watched Game of Thrones will tell you, caution is required if you make a deal with a traitor. If you rely on a victory which requires delegates ostensibly “bound” to Trump but who are willing to sell him out on the second ballot, the loyalty of some of them may well be up for grabs. When the moment of decision comes and someone begins talking about the polls which show Kasich as the only one beating Clinton in the general, how firm will their resolve be? Or if the rules committee completely scraps the current guidelines, will they suddenly get stars in their eyes and go all weak in the knees if the delegates suddenly try to drag a blushing Paul Ryan back onto the stage to admit that he just might possibly, maybe consider accepting the nomination if the entire convention begged and pleaded with him earnestly enough?
We’re going to have quite a few delegates who are technically bound to Trump on the first ballot, but since the candidates themselves didn’t get to pick them who can really say what’s in their hearts? If Trump can’t lock down 1,237 by the close of the California voting I wouldn’t rule out anything at this point.