Donald Trump has spent much of the past few days bellowing about the “rigged” Republican nominating process, taking his on-and-off feud with the Republican National Committee to new heights.
It comes even as he looks to cruise to a big victory Tuesday in his home state of New York, further cementing his status as the party’s frontrunner.
The real-estate mogul has bemoaned the party’s delegate-selection process. It has been dominated by Ted Cruz, the Texas senator nipping at Trump’s heels for the party’s nomination.
The past two weekends left Trump and his campaign with significant setbacks. First, Colorado’s Republican Party held a convention in which Cruz won all of its delegates.
Then, last weekend, during what Politico called a “massacre” and a “delegate bloodbath” for the Manhattan billionaire, Cruz delegates were elected en masse in Georgia, Wyoming, South Carolina, Kansas, and Florida caucuses and conventions.
The three southern states were key Trump victories in their primary contests, while Cruz won in Kansas’ caucuses and Wyoming’s convention.
Trump has helped fuel turnouts in primary and caucus contests to new heights in the Republican Party. But the growing number of delegates that are becoming entrenched in Cruz’s camp could provide Trump with significant trouble heading into July’s Republican National Convention.
If Trump is unable to secure the nomination by entering the convention with the requisite 1,237 delegates, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that he’ll be able to grow his delegate total after a theoretical first ballot. Meanwhile, Cruz is theoretically positioned well to gain ground in potential subsequent ballots.
Trump has railed on the process at his rallies, during media appearances, and, of course, on Twitter.
“Lyin’ Ted Cruz can’t get votes (I am millions ahead of him) so he has to get his delegates from the Republican bosses,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “It won’t work!”
“Lyin’ Ted Cruz can’t win with the voters so he has to sell himself to the bosses-I am millions of VOTES ahead! Hillary would destroy him & K,” he posted early Monday, referring to Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Top Republican officials have sought to diminish Trump’s rhetoric with indirect barbs toward the party frontrunner.
Last week, after Trump suggested the process of selecting delegates at statewide conventions rather than through a popular-vote system was a “crooked deal,” RNC Chair Reince Priebus shot back.
“Nomination process known for a year + beyond,” Priebus tweeted late Tuesday. “It’s the responsibility of the campaigns to understand it. Complaints now? Give us all a break.”
RNC spokesman Sean Spicer made a similar argument as Priebus during a Fox News appearance Tuesday.
“Not understanding that is one thing, but it’s hardly rigged when it’s done right out in the open,” he said.
Trump’s effort to collect delegates ahead of the Republican National Convention has been hindered, according to experts and outside accounts, by his team misunderstanding certain rules, clerical errors, and, perhaps most importantly, the stronger ground game and organisation of the Cruz campaign.
Paul Manafort, tasked by Trump to run his convention strategy and improve his delegate-accumulation strategy, suggested earlier this month that Cruz used “Gestapo tactics” to shutout Trump in Colorado. He said the campaign will be filing “several protests” over results in at least Colorado and Missouri.
But some Trump advisers have apparently been more willing to admit that they were simply out-gunned in other states, like Wyoming.
“The Allies didn’t invade every Japanese island,” campaign adviser Alan Cobb told CNN last weekend. “We skipped some to get to the prize.”
For his part, Cruz accused the Trump campaign of acting like “union boss thugs” as tensions between Trump and the RNC have flared up.
“There are all sorts of different behaviours they display, but one of them is projection, that the conduct they do regularly they accuse everyone else of doing,” Cruz told CNN’s Anderson Cooper during a town-hall event last Wednesday.
“So literally, in the last few weeks, Donald’s team … was threatening to out the hotel rooms of delegates who dared to cross Trump so they could be intimidated,” he continued. “They’re acting like union boss thugs.”
In one particularly loaded example, the chair of the Colorado Republican Party has reportedly claimed that he’s received death threats from Trump supporters.
Ahead of Tuesday’s big New York primary, where Trump is expected to win almost all of the 95 delegates in play, New York GOP strategist Evan Siegfried told Business Insider that the past week was a referendum on the true weakness of the Trump campaign’s ground game.
“While the majority of Trump supporters and people who don’t pay as much attention to how the process works are seeing this and saying, ‘Wait a minute, something’s rotten in the state of Denmark,’ the reality is these are complex rules that were put in place months ago, which every campaign is subject to,” he said. “They weren’t put in place to go against Trump or go against Kasich.”
“Every campaign knew these were the rules and if you want to take advantage of them, you’re going to have to be on the ground,” he continued. “And Trump is just trying to make excuses for his own inadequate ground game. When push comes to shove, he can whine all he wants, but the real person he has to blame is himself.”
Siegfried added that Trump’s struggles have exposed him as a potentially flawed general-election candidate.
“And I think this shows that if Trump gets the nomination, he’s going to have real problems competing in all 50 states,” he said. “And this is going to make it harder for the Republicans to win not only the White House but maintain control of the House and the Senate in November. “