Political observers have wondered for months whether Donald Trump’s unconventional, “political outsider” campaign would put him at a disadvantage if the Republican presidential race were to come down to the wire. Now, a fight stemming from the complicated process of selecting convention delegates suggests it has. The Trump campaign is currently in a tizzy over a development regarding Louisiana’s delegation to the Republican National Convention. While Trump narrowly defeated Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the state’s primary earlier this month, a recent Wall Street Journal report suggested that Cruz will head to Cleveland with more Louisiana delegates than the real estate mogul, prompting Trump to accuse Cruz of trying to “steal” delegates. “It’s the first bit of concrete evidence that we’ve got that the Cruz campaign is organized and that the Trump campaign is playing catch-up,” said Josh Putnam, a lecturer at the University of Georgia who tracks delegate rules at the blog FrontloadingHQ. “This process is going to go on to other states where similar battles are going to be fought under different state party rules.”
Party elders recently have rallied around the idea that the best way to stop Trump is to try to deny him the 1,237 delegates required to win the GOP nomination outright at the July convention. If they’re able to prevent Trump from hitting that threshold, most delegates will be allowed to vote for another candidate after the first or second convention ballot.
So now that it appears a rival campaign has laid a better foundation, the Trump campaign has to master the art of wooing delegates who will remain loyal him. In a scenario where the party’s gathering in Cleveland is not a Trump coronation, but rather a brokered convention, Trump’s ability to close that gap may determine whether he walks away with the GOP nomination.
“We have a process coming up where a convention of delegates is going to meet in Cleveland and one of the things that those delegates are going to do is pick a candidate.” Curly Haugland, a longtime party official from North Dakota, told TPM. “The delegate picks a candidate. The candidate doesn’t pick the delegates.”