The news that Ted Cruz and John Kasich have formally agreed to join forces, effectively throwing their support behind the other in states like Indiana, Oregon, and New Mexico, is an indication at this stage of the game that they all see the same numbers we do. The campaigns originally talked about this a month ago, around the time of Marco Rubio’s exit, but could not come to an agreement.
Now things have become more desperate, and there is recognition on the part of both camps that the state of Indiana in particular could turn into the Alamo for the forces of the Republican Party emphatically opposed to the nomination of Donald Trump.
The aim of the Trump campaign is to make California matter less to their ability to get to the necessary 1,237 delegates. The campaign is still confident – they believe they will get above that number by a significant amount, and that even if they don’t, in the time between June 7th and the convention in Cleveland, that they will pull out every carrot and stick allowed by the law to shift delegates to their camp.
They plan to make the explicit case that failing to nominate Trump, even a Trump stuck below 1,200, would throw Cleveland into disarray and lead to his undermining a “stolen” nomination for months. They have been saying this privately for weeks, and they expect RNC officials to increasingly soften their public statements about the need to get to 1,237.
Of course, the weakness of this view on the part of Trump’s associates is that it is the sort of thing one might think about politics if you’ve been away from it since the 1990s, perhaps working for more authoritarian regimes in messier parts of the world, where poisoning opponents and denying their access to political privilege carries a much greater threat.
It betrays the assumption that conservatives and conservative delegates are easily led from the top down, and that this angry herd of cats will take direction from power brokers and the likes of Mitch McConnell for the sake of party unity and under threat of losing their political access. And it invests far too much faith in the ability of Reince Priebus to hold the #NeverTrumpers feet to the fire and force them to unite.
In this mistaken view, Trump’s team assumes a far greater degree of natural party unity than exists in the GOP in the past decade. Anyone active in conservative circles more recently knows that the regional governors have nothing to turn to – there is no motivating force of fear to keep the local systems in line.
The kinds of people who are making up the current Cruz-leaning delegations – people who have been active in the past decade, who contributed to the rise of the Tea Party and generally have much firmer ideologically driven reasons for being involved in politics – are not just less loyal to the party, they have little use for it if it is taken over by someone who they view as not just a bad choice, but antagonistic to their beliefs.
That’s what we saw in the reaction to the raising of abortion and transgender issues – a throwing up of hands in the air from churchgoing evangelicals who felt not just betrayed but actively attacked by Trump’s comments. This is what Trump does not seem to personally understand about the concept of “being presidential”; it’s not that he needs to give rote speeches or read off a teleprompter. It’s that he is, at a time when any competent presidential frontrunner would focus on bringing the party together, instead actively and continuously insulting the people whose votes he will need in November.
The convention will be messy even if it is not contested. The potential for a delegate walkout in Cleveland, with delegates streaming into the streets as the cameras run to protest the nomination of a candidate they do not support, is great no matter who the nominee is.
That potential increases with every passing day where Trump shifts left, continues his insults, whines about his opponents, and illustrates his inherent divisiveness. If it is so easy to be presidential, could he give it a try for five minutes?
— Brent Baker (@BrentHBaker) April 24, 2016