Tag Archives: Republican Delegates

What Trump can learn from Reagan and the ’76 delegate fight

April 11 at 12:08 PM
As we approach what may be the first contested GOP convention since 1976, Donald Trump is complaining that Ted Cruz is using “crooked shenanigans” to win delegates and deny him the Republican presidential nomination. But Cruz is doing exactly what Ronald Reagan did in ’76 in his insurgent campaign for the GOP nomination — running a well-organized ground game designed to win every available delegate at state and local conventions across the country. Trump’s failure to respond with a ground game of his own could cost him the nomination.

Like Trump today, the Ford team complained about Reagan’s tactics. As Craig Shirley recounts in his masterful history of the 1976 campaign, Ford’s chief delegate hunter, James Baker, complained to Time magazine that Ford’s people were being “out hustled” by Reagan, declaring “These Reagan people don’t care; they’re absolutely ruthless. They want all of it.” Reagan traveled across the county addressing state and local conventions, and called uncommitted delegates inviting them to private dinners (adding “By the way, do you mind if I bring along John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart?”).

Marc Thiessen writes a weekly column for The Post on foreign and domestic policy and contributes to the PostPartisan blog. He is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
Unlike Trump today, Ford responded in kind, inviting unbound delegates to the Oval Office and sending operatives to state conventions to flip Reagan delegates to his side. In a handwritten letter recently released by the Jesse Helms Center, Reagan wrote Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) — who had saved his campaign by delivering North Carolina for Reagan — about his frustrations with the Ford team’s tactics. “I’ve never been so disgusted in all my life,” Reagan told Helms. “In every convention the W.H. gang are there manipulating, trying to get the rules changed, etc. . . . Don’t get me wrong, I still think we’ll take him. But Jesse it almost seems as if they are out to win a convention instead of an election.”

Ted Cruz is out-hustling Trump. On Saturday, Cruz spoke at Colorado’s state GOP convention and shut Trump out, winning all 34 of the state’s pledged delegates. Trump complained: “There was no voting. I didn’t go out there to make a speech or anything.” Well, whose fault is that?

Trump also didn’t give a speech in North Dakota, but Cruz did — and won 18 of 25 delegates. In Louisiana, a state Trump won by just 3.6 percentage points, the Wall Street Journal reports that Cruz “may wind up with as many as 10 more delegates from the state” than Trump. Why? Because Cruz successfully courted the state’s five unbound delegates and won over five Marco Rubio delegates who became free agents after the senator from Florida suspended his campaign.

By picking up handfuls of delegates in these and other states, and beating Trump in key primaries such as Wisconsin, Cruz hopes to deny Trump the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot. Then Cruz is taking another page out of the Reagan playbook. As Shirley notes, in ’76, the Reagan team loaded state delegations with Reagan supporters who “although bound on a first ballot at the national convention . . . would be freed to vote their individual preference on any subsequent ballots.”

Cruz is similarly working to elect delegates who, while bound to support Trump on a first ballot, will support Cruz on subsequent ballots. In Virginia’s 9th Congressional District, for example, two of the three delegates electedtold The Post that “they would vote for Cruz if voting on a GOP nominee goes into multiple rounds.” In Georgia’s Coweta County — which Trump won by 12 percentage points — Cruz supporters won an estimated 90 percent of the county’s delegates to the state and district conventions that will choose Georgia’s delegates at the Republican National Convention. In Michigan, Cruz’s campaign believes it has elected its supporters to at least five of the 25 delegate slots pledged to Trump. It has been a similar story in South Carolina,Indiana, Tennessee, South Dakota and other states.

There is nothing wrong with this. Cruz is fighting for every available delegate according to the rules, just as Reagan did. And who is Trump to complain? Trump defends his businesses’ multiple bankruptcies by saying he had simply “taken advantage of the laws of the country” that are available to all Americans. Well, Cruz is taking advantage of the rules of the state parties that are available to all the candidates.

If Trump can’t compete, he has no one to blame but himself. Back in February, after losing Iowa to Cruz, Trump admitted he “never realized” the importance of building a field organization. But instead of going out and building that field organization, he has done the opposite. Politico reportsthat “Since March, [Trump] has been laying off field staff en masse around the country.” Trump brags about how rich he is, but he has run his campaign on the cheap, relying on provocative tweets and his massive advantage in free media to win primaries. He’s now learning that Twitter and free media can’t win delegates.

Trump likes to compare himself to Ronald Reagan. Well, if he doesn’t stop complaining and start campaigning, he may end up as Reagan did in ’76 — the runner-up.

How far can you go to win support from a Republican Delegate?

By Matea Gold and Ed O’Keefe The Washington Post

Posted Apr. 11, 2016 at 9:54 AM

Imagine this: Donald Trump wooing delegates with rides on his gold-plated private jet. A wealthy Ted Cruz supporter wining and dining them at the Cleveland convention. Welcome bags stocked with expensive swag awaiting party activists in their hotel rooms, courtesy of a well-funded super PAC.

The already freewheeling Republican presidential contest is fast turning into a personal persuasion game as the candidates pursue a no-holds-barred effort to lock up delegates – and there are relatively few limits on how far they can go.

The jockeying has already led to accusations of unfair play. On Sunday, Trump accused Cruz of luring delegates with unspecified “goodies” and “crooked shenanigans,” a charge that the Cruz campaign dismissed as “falsehoods.”

Under regulations established in the 1980s, delegates cannot take money from corporations, labor unions, federal contractors or foreign nationals. But an individual donor is permitted to give a delegate unlimited sums to support his or her efforts to get selected to go to the convention, including money to defray the costs of travel and lodging.

A candidate’s campaign committee can also pay for delegate expenses. Some legal experts believe a campaign could even cover an all-expense-paid weekend prior to the convention to meet with senior staff at, say, a Trump-owned luxury golf resort in Florida.

Given that the last contested Republican convention was 40 years ago – Gerald Ford vs. Ronald Reagan in 1976 – many of Washington’s top campaign-finance experts are furiously paging through old Federal Election Commission opinions, trying to discern what delegates can accept.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” said Kenneth Gross, a former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission. “And when you get into the heat of battle and the stakes are as high as they possibly can be in terms of who will be the nominee, people are going to push the envelope.”

Trump and Cruz, who have shown their relentlessness in this season’s rough-and-tumble campaign, are expected to look for every legal edge possible if neither is able to secure 1,237 delegates before the July convention. Also in the mix is Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who forged an alliance with Trump Saturday in a delegate fight in Michigan.

The candidates “will be in a bidding war for delegates,” said Brett Kappel, a veteran campaign-finance lawyer who has represented Democrats and Republicans. “They’ll live like kings at the convention.”

The FEC delegate rules were established long before super PACs came on the scene and offers little guidance about how such groups can lobby delegates. One possibility floated by strategists in recent days: a super PAC-financed war room that collects reams of personal data – political background, hobbies, family details – that can be used to target the nearly 200 activists and elected officials who are not bound to a specific candidate.

The lack of clear guardrails has left party activists feeling unsettled.

“It’s almost like we need a campaign-finance system for delegates,” Gregory Carlson, 27, who ran unsuccessfully to be a delegate in Colorado over the weekend. “This is why we need to put serious thought into this and who are immune to being paid off with below-board messages.”

Since most delegates are expected to cover their own travel and stay in Cleveland, they could be offered thousands of dollars in assistance. Just how far those payments can go has not been tested.

“If they decide to go to Cleveland via Cabo, that might be a problem,” said Anthony Herman, a former FEC general counsel.

But it’s unclear that such a perk would be made public if it was provided by a single donor. Under FEC rules, a contribution from an individual to a delegate does not have to be disclosed, as long as it was not made in coordination with a campaign or as an independent effort to boost a candidate. That means gifts could flow to delegates unseen.

“Beyond subsistence expenses, in the weeks ahead, are there cash and items of value given to these delegates?” asked Republican election law attorney Michael Toner. “Is someone going to show up in the Cayman Islands in January with a three-week paid trip? That’s not going to be readily apparent before the election.”

Still, Toner added, “I think the vast majority of the deals are going to be political deals. People want attention, a seat at the table.”

That was the case in 1976, when Ford leveraged the prestige and trappings of his office to try to bring uncommitted delegates over to his side. He invited entire state delegations to lunch and dinner at the White House, and even hosted a group on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal to watch the July 4 bicentennial celebration in New York harbor, according to Jules Witcover’s 1977 book, “Marathon.”

Reagan tried to match him with his Hollywood connections, recruiting entertainers such as John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Pat Boone to call wavering delegates.

“It was hand-to-hand combat,” said Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, who detailed the fight in his book “Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All.” “When it comes to getting delegates, it is the wild, wild West. Anything goes.”

Well, not absolutely anything. State and federal anti-bribery laws would probably forbid delegates from outright selling their votes, although it is unclear how those statutes apply to those who are private citizens rather than elected officials. Election law lawyers noted that the Justice Department has recently stepped up its focus on campaign-finance violations and could scrutinize suspicious transactions.

And most experts doubt there will be systematic efforts to try to win over delegates with cash.

“I think it’s a pretty dangerous game to play,” Herman said. “The optics are just so bad. Putting aside FEC exposure or even criminal exposure, I think the political exposure if it were disclosed and the public knew about it – it would just seem so unseemly.”

The campaigns declined to offer specifics on how they plan to woo delegates.

“Well, there’s the law, and then there’s ethics, and then there’s getting votes,” Trump convention manager Paul Manafort told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “I’m not going to get into what tactics are used. I happen to think the best way we’re going to get delegates is to have Donald Trump be exposed to delegates, let the delegates hear what he says.”

Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said the senator from Texas has been “building an organization that will allow us to secure the delegates we need to win should this race be determined at convention.”

Several delegates interviewed this week said they would not be swayed by inducements, and were exasperated by the suggestion that their support could be bought with money or gifts.

Wendy Day – a 43-year-old mother of four in Michigan who was elected to be a delegate for Cruz – said her delegation is looking for ways to keep their Cleveland travel costs down, perhaps by renting homes outside the city so they will not have to depend on a benefactor to cover their expenses.

“We wouldn’t want to feel like we were being bought off,” she said, adding: “I don’t think Cruz supporters would be swayed by gifts and money. We are in this to save our country.”

Joy Hoffman, chairwoman of the Arapahoe County Republican Party in Colorado, said she would view any kind of monetary gift or offer to pay for expenses as a bribe.

The candidates can “call me and talk to me,” said Hoffman, who will be an unpledged alternate delegate to the convention. But she warned that she will not be easily dazzled.

“I already know these people,” Hoffman said. “They’ve been bugging me for months. I had breakfast with Kasich not long ago and I’ve had conversations with the Trumps. At the end of the day, that’s nice. They put their pants on the same way, they eat the same kind of food we eat.”

O’Keefe reported from Colorado Springs, Colo. The Washington Post’s David Weigel, reporting from Rochester, N.Y., and Katie Zezima contributed to this report.