Sen. Ted Cruz and his backers seem confident they can corral the support of enough delegates to deny Donald Trump the Republican nomination of the first ballot. Scores of the first-ballot “unbound” delegates, Cruz and many in the media think, have actually been bound to the Texas senator.
But unless by “bound” they mean physically tied up with a pistol to their heads, Cruz’s confidence may be perilously misplaced. Because Cruz has two problems: Donald Trump — and Ted Cruz.
“I think at a contested convention, we are going to earn the support, build together and unify the party, earn the support of the majority of the delegates,” Cruz told Sean Hannity of Fox News on April 25.
Not so fast.
Estimates of the number of unbound delegates have ranged from just over 100 to up to 150, with some even pegging the number at closer to 200. What Cruz does not understand, should Trump not quite gain the 1,237 delegate he needs during the primaries, is the enormous pressure these delegates will be under to support the New Yorker, even if Cruz’s political machine — known to be as well-oiled as the Texas senator’s fading pompadour — thinks it has them wrapped up.
That’s because between the final primaries on June 7 and the Republican nomination on July 18, Trump will have nearly six long weeks to deploy his most fearsome weapon: personal persuasion.
The nation’s consummate dealmaker will be meeting one-on-one with these delegates. He will be overwhelming them with charm, explicit and implicit promises, and possibly, if all else fails, threats. The man who has assembled a vast real estate empire in the shark-infested business environment of New York knows as well as anyone alive how to move “no” to “yes.”
This personal touch is a talent Ted Cruz probably lacks in abundance. He has accumulated the support of five out of 100 U.S. senators he serves with, three of whom originally backed someone else. Because, having worked with him personally, the other 95 detest him.
This personal touch is a talent Ted Cruz probably lacks in abundance.
Cruz couldn’t even get Gov. John Kasich to hold for more than a few hours to his “deal” to allow the Texan free rein in Indiana. The day after the pact became public, Kasich was telling Indiana voters to go ahead and vote Kasich.
And Trump won’t be the only one working the delegates over. His beautiful, charming daughter Ivanka, herself already a successful veteran of the Darwinian Manhattan business world, will be cooing at them over coffee and pastries or — better — cocktails.
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And these delegates will be receiving the Trump Treatment in plush pads like Donald’s suite in Trump Towers or his Mar-a-Lago estate.
Such tactics are not to be underestimated. I once had an old associate of Lyndon Johnson’s tell me he had actually married someone because Johnson, one of America’s other great persuaders, demanded it. He was not proud of the fact. “You just trying saying ‘no’ when the president of the United States is crying real tears on your shoulder,” he said.
Add to this the enormous pressure these delegates will be under to support the undeniable choice of Republican voters, who, under any scenario, will have backed Trump over the other candidates by vast numbers by the end of voting. The notion that “delegates choose” a nominee is quaint. The people, and presumably many of the delegates themselves, have long since discarded the notion that others have a right to pull levers in their stead.
Those who argue that a “contested convention” is nothing new must reach back decades, or even centuries, to prove their point. We live in a society today that, mostly, does not recognize the right of the elite to make choices for them in a democratic election. And there will be thousands of Trump supporters in the streets of Cleveland — where the convention will be held — to drive home the point.
In Pennsylvania, which will send 54 unbound delegates to the convention, news organizations suggest that as many as half will honor the votes of the people in their districts, no matter their personal predilections. Cruz likely will find that many others will follow suit.
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In North Dakota, where Cruz supposedly has the backing of 18 of 25 unbound delegates, things may not be what they seem.
“It’s still not clear how loyal all of Cruz’s slate will be if the Republican nomination heads to a contested convention in Cleveland, as several included on it told Politico they were only leaning toward Cruz, or simply opposed to Trump,” Politico reported.
Cruz will no doubt be buttonholing as many delegates as he can, too. The only problem with this strategy — certainly you’ve heard Cruz speak — is that they will be forced to listen to Ted Cruz.
Keith Koffler is the editor of the website White House Dossier.