Ted Cruz Gains in Louisiana After Loss There to Donald Trump
Despite coming up short in state’s Republican presidential primary, Texan picks up more delegates and controls key convention roles.
Donald Trump beat Sen. Ted Cruz earlier this month in Louisiana’s Republican presidential primary by 3.6 percentage points, but the Texan may wind up with as many as 10 more delegates from the state than the businessman.
Mr. Cruz’s supporters also seized five of Louisiana’s six slots on the three powerful committees that will write the rules and platform at the Republican National Convention and mediate disputes over delegates’ eligibility this summer in Cleveland.
The little-noticed inside maneuvering that led to this outcome in Louisiana is another dramatic illustration of the inside game that could have an outsize influence on the bitter race for the GOP nomination. A similar process played out three weeks agoin Coweta County, Ga.
While Mr. Trump leads in winning primary and caucus elections, and has won more delegates, the Cruz campaign is proving superior at the arcane game of picking the people who will be the actual delegates to the convention, where they will help write the rules and ultimately choose the nominee.
That means that if Mr. Trump fails to reach the delegate threshold to claim the GOP nomination on the convention’s first ballot, committees dominated by Cruz supporters could work to block him from winning enough delegates to claim the nomination on any subsequent ballots.
Kay Kellogg Katz, a Trump supporter who sought unsuccessfully to win a position on a key panel at the convention, summarized the Trump campaign’s predicament this way: “I do not know Mr. Trump, I do not know his staff people. Quite frankly, we don’t have much of a campaign in Louisiana. All we have is voters.”
In other states, Trump supporters have missed out on the early process of becoming convention delegates because they are relatively inexperienced in the party processes. But in Louisiana, Mr. Trump won broad support among elected officials despite a bare-bones campaign infrastructure. Still, he has lagged behind on delegate selection.
With 20 states left to vote, Mr. Trump has won 739 delegates out of 1,237 required to clinch the GOP nomination. He has to win about 55% of the remaining delegates to avoid a contested convention.
Stacking the convention and its committees with supporters is critical for Mr. Cruz, because a contested convention is his only viable path to the nomination. The Texan must win 85% of the remaining delegates to win outright, a highly unlikely scenario with many states awarding delegates proportionally.
The Trump campaign’s first problem is in the overall delegate count from Louisiana. Messrs. Trump and Cruz each won 18 delegates apiece based on the Louisiana results in the primary on March 5. But the five delegates awarded to Florida Sen.Marco Rubio are now free agents because he ended his campaign, and Louisiana Republicans expect them to swing behind Mr. Cruz.
Meanwhile, the state’s five unbound delegates—who are free to back the candidates of their choice—also are more likely to back Mr. Cruz than Mr. Trump, according to GOP officials in the state.
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