Ted Cruz’s and Marco Rubio’s supporters have teamed up in Arkansas to pack the state delegation with individuals who’ll turn against Donald Trump in a contested convention.
Since Rubio ended his presidential bid March 15, his network of party insiders has lined up behind Cruz to win delegates who’d vote for the Texas senator once they’re no longer bound to Trump in a floor fight. Trump won Arkansas’ GOP primary March 1 with 32.8 percent of the vote compared to Cruz’s 30.5 percent and Rubio’s 24.9 percent. But Cruz’s canny operatives, with Rubio riding shotgun, is likely to thwart Trump in the delegate election.
Trump’s organization is as sloppy in Arkansas as elsewhere, just as Cruz’s is an efficient machine in state after state. This could ding the Donald, costing him as many as 25 delegates after a first inconclusive ballot. Cruz, who finished with 15 out of the available 40 delegates in primary voting, stands to gain all 16 Trump delegates and the 9 won by Rubio.
That is just one reason why the delegation that arrives in Cleveland is likely to be dominated by “never Trump” forces. The other is Trump’s lax effort to post delegate candidates that he can depend on to defend his winnings from the primary.
By working delegate elections in precincts, counties and states Trump won, including Arkansas, Cruz is loading slates with loyalists who are pledging to support him for the nomination once unbound. In many of these contests, the Trump campaign has suffered from disorganization — or from being absent from the process. Delegate candidates tend to be comprised of grassroots party regulars, another factor that could hurt Trump.
In Arkansas, delegates will be elected in a series of local elections in April, culminating with meeting of the state central committee on May 14. Candidates had to meet a Feb. 19 deadline to file to run. The Cruz campaign was actively engaged in recruiting candidates going back several months. The Trump campaign was, and remains, largely absent, Arkansas GOP insiders say, mirroring the front-runner’s problems in other states.
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