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Politics & Policy

The Trump Campaign Belatedly Realizes How Colorado Picks Its Delegates

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Trump Campaign Belatedly Realizes How Colorado Picks Its Delegates

The headlines on Drudge this morning:

SHOCK: Republicans cancel presidential election in CO…

Voters burn registrations in protest . . . 

TRUMP: How is it possible people of the state never got to vote?

’This will not be allowed!’

1 MILLION REPUBLICANS SIDELINED . . . 

PAPER: GOP made big mistake abandoning presidential tally . . . 

The Colorado Republican party made the decision to not hold a straw poll back in August, with very little objection at the time from Donald Trump or anyone else outside Colorado. And this is not much of a change from the previous cycles.

Colorado had primaries until 2003, when Governor Bill Owens and bipartisan majorities in the state legislature eliminated them in presidential contests, contending it was a waste of money and that state parties should pay for them, not taxpayers. The state shifted to a caucus format, and Republicans didn’t pay much attention to the change in 2004, when George W. Bush was running with no major primary opposition. Then, as it was described in 2008, “each of the 46 delegates Colorado will send to the Republican National Convention will be unpledged, but the state caucus and straw poll here was viewed as an important indicator of momentum in this diverse state.”

Again in 2012, Colorado’s delegates were not bound to the candidate who won the caucuses. In other words, the caucus didn’t actually mean anything to the delegates; they were free to honor the results or ignore them.

This time around, the Republican National Committee told the state parties they could no longer have “beauty pageant” competitions — i.e., purely symbolic contests that are not actually tied to the results. That’s what the “straw poll” represented, so the Colorado GOP canceled it.

I can hear the objection from the Trump crowd now – “But what about the delegate fights in all of other these states, aren’t they ignoring the contest results?” But in every other state, the delegates are bound to vote for a candidate for a certain number of ballots, under party rules. You have some likely Cruz supporters going as pledged Trump delegates, who are absolutely, intractably required to vote for Trump on the first or first two ballots (depending on state party rules). If Trump wins the nomination on the first or second ballot, their unexpressed preference for Cruz doesn’t matter; they never get a chance to cast a vote for Cruz.

On March 1, Colorado Republicans gathered at 2,917 precinct caucuses to select delegates to the county assemblies and district conventions. If you’re a Coloradan with a view on the Republican primary, this is when you got to vote. At the county assemblies, those delegates elect delegates to the congressional-district and state conventions. (Colorado Republicans pick three delegates and three alternates from each of the seven congressional districts, and then another 13 to represent statewide.) Once again, this is all laid out in the party rules. This isn’t hidden somewhere. It’s not written in code.

Trump asks, “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!” It’s very possible, because another nine states and the District of Columbia have people who “never get to vote in the Republican Primary” because they have a caucus, and another four territories have caucuses or state conventions. Trump’s contention is that only primaries are fair.

One might think he had never paid much attention to a presidential primary before. (We do know he hasn’t voted in the past six presidential primaries, and he mentioned this morning that two of his children missed the deadline to register to vote in the New York primary.)

It’s been easy to scoff at this description of Trump’s meeting with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus…

When Mr. Priebus explained that each campaign needed to be prepared to fight for delegates at each state’s convention, Mr. Trump turned to his aides and suggested that they had not been doing what they needed to do, the people briefed on the meeting said.

But the evidence is mounting that yes, indeed, Trump really is being poorly served by his staff, as his campaign seems to get blindsided by existing rules week after week:

Trump’s campaign didn’t put a visible paid staffer on the ground in Colorado until last week, when it hired Patrick Davis, a Colorado Springs political consultant, to organize national delegate candidates at the 7th Congressional District convention in Arvada. By then, Cruz had won the first six delegates.

Even then, the energy behind Trump’s campaign didn’t materialize in support. He managed to win only seven alternate delegates.

The Trump campaign’s list of preferred national delegates distributed at the state convention on Saturday was riddled with errors and misspellings that only further hurt its chances.

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