Trump Whines About A ‘Rigged’ System, But The Blame Lies With Him
Donald Trump is complaining about a 'rigged' delegate selection process, but the truth is that the fault lies with only one person, Donald Trump.
After having been largely out manuevered in the fight for delegates in Colorado by a better organized Cruz campaign, Donald Trump has taken to telling his supporters that the Republican delegate selection process is ‘rigged’:
WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump and his allies are engaged in an aggressive effort to undermine the Republican nominating process by framing it as rigged and corrupt, hoping to compensate for organizational deficiencies that have left Mr. Trump with an increasingly precarious path to the nomination.
Their message: The election is being stolen from him.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump berated the politicians he said were trying to stop his nomination and denounced the Republican Party, which he cast as complicit in the theft.
“Our Republican system is absolutely rigged. It’s a phony deal,” he said, accusing party leaders of maneuvering to cut his supporters out of the process. “They wanted to keep people out. This is a dirty trick.”
His charges built on comments in the last few days by associates, senior advisers and Mr. Trump himself, seeking to cast a shadow of illegitimacy over the local and state contests to select delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
By blaming the process rather than his own inadequacies as a manager, Mr. Trump is trying to shift focus after Senator Ted Cruz of Texas outmaneuvered him in delegate contests in states like Colorado, North Dakota and Iowa, losses that could end up denying Mr. Trump the nomination.
Asked about the appearance of disorganization, Mr. Trump said in an interview, “You have to remember I’m leading.” He added, “I’m more than 200 delegates ahead, so over all, I’m doing very well.”
But in what sounded like a wink-wink aside, he said, “Don’t forget, I only complain about the ones where we have difficulty.”
The new approach is a tacit admission that Mr. Trump’s campaign, which has been so reliant on national news coverage and mass communication via Twitter, has not been able to compete in the often intimate and personal game that is delegate courtship.
His effort to sow doubt about the system plays into the suspicions and anxieties that many of his most ardent backers have about a political process they believe has intentionally disenfranchised them. And it allows Mr. Trump to divert attention from his recent losses in delegate races occurring all over the country.
Mr. Trump has a pattern of claiming fraud when an election does not go his way. And his critics say this kind of misdirection is his specialty.
“If Trump can’t win something, he’ll always say it’s someone else’s fault,” said Stuart Stevens, a Republican strategist who has advised several presidential candidates, most recently Mitt Romney in 2012. “Donald Trump is a place you go to settle scores,” he added, noting Mr. Trump’s tendency to play on grievances, whether political, economic or racial.
“And that’s what he’s selling. ‘You’ve been cheated here, you’ve been cheated there,’ ” Mr. Stevens said. ” ‘I’ll get you yours.’ ”
After losing the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Trump insisted that Mr. Cruz had prevailed by duping Ben Carson supporters into voting for him after spreading a false rumor that Mr. Carson was dropping out of the race. “Ted Cruz didn’t win Iowa, he stole it!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter at the time.
Mr. Trump’s complaints also reflect the difficult math he seems likely to face at the convention. Each delegate denied pushes him further away from winning the nomination on the first ballot, after which most delegates would be free to vote for someone else. And after the most recent rounds of voting, Mr. Cruz is poised to have many loyal supporters who would stand with him on a second ballot or beyond.
The Trump campaign has, by its own admission, fallen perilously behind in the delegate effort, narrowing Mr. Trump’s road to the nomination with each contest.
The outlook in the coming weeks is not much better. Even if Mr. Trump prevails in high-profile battles like next week’s New York primary, there are growing signs that he is not well equipped to succeed in the lower-profile skirmishes for delegates.
There, Mr. Cruz has an advantage. His campaign recently hired Ken Cuccinelli, a conservative former attorney general of Virginia and a veteran of the state’s internecine Republican battles, to oversee its effort to send pro-Cruz delegates to Cleveland.
The process for choosing delegates can be convoluted and arcane. Even if one candidate wins a state, the delegates who are supposed to vote for him at the convention might privately support one of his opponents, and could do so formally after the first ballot. In some states, like Colorado, delegates selected at a district caucus then vote for separate delegates to the national convention. Because the approach varies by state, campaigns must be well versed in each set of rules.
In an interview, Mr. Cuccinelli noted that 28 states or districts will select delegates this weekend. “We’ll have them all covered,” he said by phone from the Cruz campaign’s Houston headquarters, where he spends much of his time.
Mr. Cuccinelli said he had only recently detected evidence that Mr. Trump’s staff was engaged in the shadow campaign to elect favorable delegates at state and local conventions.
“We are very blessed that our opponent had no idea what he was doing on this until about a month ago,” Mr. Cuccinelli said. “A media-only campaign has its advantages, but it also has its very severe disadvantages.” Mr. Trump’s newly hired chief delegate strategist, Paul J. Manafort, did not respond to an interview request
Donald Trump’s whining not withstanding, the truth of the matter behind these delegate controversies is really quite simple. In each case, the method by which the delegates to the National Convention are chosen is something that was announced well in advance of the beginning of this process. In Colorado, for example, it has always been the case that delegates were chosen via a process that begins with local caucuses which select delegate to county and Congressional District level conventions, which in turn select delegates to the state party convention, and that the final slate of delegates is selected at the state convention. It used to be the case that the Colorado Republicans would also hold what effectively amounts to a straw poll at their local caucuses, but that step was canceled in August after the Republican National Committee ruled in August that a state which holds a caucus at which there is such a poll must agree that delegates to the National Convention will be bound by the results of that poll for at least the first ballot. Since Colorado Republicans did not want to be bound by that rule, they canceled the straw poll. The remainder of the process remained in place, and there was nothing preventing the Trump campaign from participating in the same manner that the Cruz campaign did. The fact that it did not do so is a reflection of either incompetence or a conscious decision to not expend resources in a particular state. Whichever it is, the only campaign responsible for what happened to Trump in Colorado, or Indiana, or Louisiana is Donald Trump’s own campaign.
In the end, Trump’s complaining about the process should be dismissed for the whining that it appears to be. If the campaign really is being blindsided as Trump himself claims, then they have nobody to blame but themselves. A well-organized, competent campaign would have been on top of this process months before the caucus process began and been ready to go forward as necessary, and they should have been prepared to do so in every state where delegate selection is more than just a mere post-primary formality. Instead of doing that, though, Trump has been content to run a campaign that consists primarily of hurling insults, operating a Twitter account, and flying in for rallies and speeches and then flying home at night to the comfort of his Manhattan bedroom. For a guy whose entire campaign has been all about advertising his skills as a manager and his ability to pick the right people to get things done, Trump’s utter failure to do that with respect to this crucial aspect of his own campaign is telling, and it’s doesn’t reflect well on him.