Why Donald Trump is freaking out about Colorado’s caucus system
Colorado Republicans gave the GOP front runner a middle finger the size of Trump Tower on Saturday — and now The Donald is saying the fix is in.
A simmering resentment in Trump world began over the weekend when Ted Cruz wrapped up all of Colorado’s delegates who were selected to go to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
That’s right, all of them.
The reasons are simple: Colorado’s Republican activist base had an inherent attraction to Cruz’s strain of conservative politics, and the Cruz campaign had a masterful understanding of how the delegate-selection process works in Colorado. Add a dash of anti-Trump (or #NeverTrump) sentiment into the mix and you saw a slate of Cruz-backers working toward the same goal even if they represented factions in Colorado politics that don’t often work together in elections. Dudley Brown, the head of the polarizing Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group, for instance, found his name on a flyer alongside that of Secretary of State Wayne Williams who represents a more mainstream faction of the state GOP.
One of Colorado’s sitting congressmen, Ken Buck, guided a team of Cruz volunteers led by Regina Thomson who started working early to figure out the best strategy to win. That was important in light of Colorado’s Republican leaders canceling their official straw poll that would have normally taken place during the March 1 caucuses. That meant Colorado’s 37 delegates would remain unbound unless they pledged themselves to a specific candidate, which many did — to Cruz — in the weeks leading up to seven congressional assemblies and the state convention where delegates would be chosen to go to Cleveland.
Canceling the straw poll at the time led some in the party to say the move would hurt Colorado’s influence in the presidential primary process.
Now, no one is saying that.
In fact, the influence of these delegates is so important that Donald Trump himself has taken aim at the process by which they were selected— notably after the process is over and he is denied any delegates from Colorado.
How is it possible that the people of the great State of Colorado never got to vote in the Republican Primary? Great anger – totally unfair!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2016
The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians. Biggest story in politics. This will not be allowed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2016
The Colorado Republican Party made its decision to cancel the straw poll in August. So what was Trump or his campaign doing since then?
Not as much as Cruz, whose volunteers drove Cruz supporters to the precinct caucuses in March, and who personally travelled to Colorado Springs to give the only speech at the state convention by a presidential candidate. (Trump said he would be in Colorado, then backed out.)
In early January, The Colorado Independent published an explainer about the GOP caucuses and what they meant for the presidential race with this sub-headline: “Your neighborhood Republicans are gathering March 1. You should know how to get involved.”
It’s safe to say now some presidential campaigns knew, or cared, exactly how to get involved, and others either didn’t or chose not to.
But when the Trump people finally did get around to focusing on Colorado, the team’s stumbles were chronicled in big headlines by national reporters who had come to this square state to report on the delegate hunt. Colorado was an easy pitch for the national press as the presidential race appears more and more likely to culminate in a chaotic brokered convention on July 18 in Cleveland. Once here, reporters found an unorganized Trump campaign screwing up their delegate bids by neglecting to put names of delegates on campaign literature, misspelling names, or mistakenly listing Cruz supporters on a slate for Trump.
Now, Trump and his team are threatening to challenge the results.
Speaking Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Trump’s new convention manager Paul Manafort said the Cruz campaign had used “Gestapo tactics” in their effort to amass delegates in Colorado.
Despite the Trump campaign’s own stumbles, the Colorado Republican Party did give Trump some ammunition for the war he’s now waging against the system. A prominent delegate named Larry Singer, who is not a Trump supporter, but whose brother is a New York City hedge-funder and big Colorado conservative donor, found his name left off the official ballot for the delegate race at the April 9 state convention.
Then, when the votes came in and Cruz had swept all the delegates, the official Colorado Republican Party Twitter account tweeted this: “We did it. #NeverTrump.”
The state party’s spokesman, Kye Kohli, saw the unauthorized tweet as he was headed into the 3rd floor press box at the Broadmoor World Arena as the convention was wrapping up.
“It’s not us!” he shouted, explaining that someone with unsanctioned use of the party’s Twitter account had played a hoax. Clearly frustrated, he vowed to investigate how it happened, which the party seems to have done.
Donald Trump needs 1,237 delegates if he wants to roll into Cleveland with enough to win the Republican Party’s nomination for president this year. Donald Trump doesn’t like to lose. And that Donald Trump does not yet have the number he needs to win — and since he just lost 34 delegates to Ted Cruz in Colorado — it’s really no surprise Donald Trump is making a scene about a potential Rocky Mountain ripoff.
As the data-journalism website FiveThirtyEight explained today about Trump overlooking Colorado: “He needs delegates anywhere he can find them.”
*CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Larry Singer as a supporter of Donald Trump. He does not support Trump.
[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore vie Creative Commons in Flickr]
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