With the strong possibility that the GOP presidential nomination will come down to a delegate brawl, the big “anti-establishment” candidate is turning to a veteran political insider to help him clinch the nomination.
Donald Trump has hired Republican strategist Paul Manafort to head his effort to cajole and woo delegates in case he doesn’t reach the magical 1,237 that would ensure him the nomination.
Manafort, 66, has deep roots in political maneuvering, having managed the 1976 convention floor for Gerald Ford when he ran against and beat Ronald Reagan. That year was the last time Republicans entered a convention with no candidate having secured the nomination.
Manafort returned in 1980 to help Reagan, and participated in the 1988 and 1996 conventions for George Bush and Bob Dole. In addition, he founded a top political consulting and lobbying group in DC. One of his partners, Charles Black Jr., now works for John Kasich to get him ready for a contested convention.
You can’t get more establishment than that. Yet Trump, who claims to be the true outsider in the race, has opened up a nice, cozy office in Washington where Manafort can work his political magic. Together, he and Trump will be working with operatives to rope in more delegates. Let’s just hope none of them is grabbed and has to file a police report for battery.
Democracy Means Mob Rule, Remember?
The opening of the delegate management office comes after Trump finally learned that we don’t live in a true democracy where people vote directly for the president. Between tweets, he must have brushed up on basic civics and realized delegates actually do the final voting in the primaries, and if a candidate goes into the nominating convention without a majority, the delegates are unbound on the second vote.
This really hit home when the delegate count in Louisiana began to shift in Ted Cruz’s favor even though Trump won the popular vote. Trump beat Cruz by 3.6 percent, but according to party rules each won 18 delegates and the unbound delegates in the state are open to any candidate.
Cruz, with a stellar ground game, is using his organization powers to convince 10 more delegates to vote for him. Those additional delegates come from two places: five from Marco Rubio, who is no longer in the race, and five unpledged delegates, who are not required to support any single candidate. Trump’s reaction was typical: “Just to show you how unfair Republican primary politics can be, I won the State of Louisiana and get less delegates than Cruz-Lawsuit coming!”
Au contraire, Mr. Trump. What Cruz is doing is completely fair and legal. This is how the process works. The rub is, even Trump knows this and is playing the game too. He’s coming from behind because he has had a weak ground operation, but he’s definitely playing. Even as he complains about how unfair it all is, he’s setting up shop in Washington and filling it with establishment gurus to fight like a veteran insider.