Ted Cruz’s convention-floor plan
He’s making sure his loyalists have a say at the national convention “They’ve got a big coalition, and they’re organized”
While Ted Cruz was campaigning in Missouri before the state’s March 15 primary, his staffers were in Iowa to wring another victory out of the state that gave him the first win of the primary season. Delegates elected in each of Iowa’s 1,681 precincts gathered on March 12 to begin the process of deciding who will represent the state at the national GOP convention in July. The Cruz team’s goal? To make sure its loyalists get to Cleveland, where they can be positioned to help their man take the nomination in a floor fight if front-runner Donald Trump falls short of the 1,237 delegates he’d need to win on the first ballot. “We’re making resource allocations based upon stopping Donald Trump,” says Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe.
Following a strategy used in 2012 by Ron Paul, the Cruz campaign encouraged its supporters to stay late the night of the Feb. 1 caucuses to elect the precinct delegates who then voted in the county conventions. The next step involves organizing those precinct representatives to back the selection of Cruz-friendly delegates at county and state GOP conventions. Delegates chosen by each of the 99 county Republican organizations will vote at the congressional district and state levels to pick the national convention delegates who will actually nominate the GOP presidential candidate.
At Cruz’s Houston headquarters, a six-person team overseen by political operatives, lawyers, and data analysts figures out which local party activists to target. Each state party has its own rules for delegate selection, but people running for delegate slots typically mount e-mail campaigns and give speeches at county and state conventions. “We make sure that all of the people who were whipped up leading up to the caucuses are ready,” says Roe.
At the national convention, a fraction of the 2,472 delegates will be free to pick the candidate of their choice on the first ballot, regardless of their state primary results. About three-quarters can do so if there are subsequent votes. Some states, such as Alabama, require national convention delegates to support whoever won the popular vote throughout the nominating process. Iowa, where Trump and Marco Rubio each won seven delegates to Cruz’s eight, is among those that allow national delegates to vote for whomever they want if no one wins the nomination on the first national convention ballot. So is Georgia, which holds its county conventions on March 19.
Cruz’s investment in putting his loyalists in place now may help him circumvent the need to scramble if there’s a floor fight in July. “Of any of the campaigns, the Ted Cruz people are the best-positioned,” says Iowa Republican operative Grant Young. “They’ve got a big coalition, and they’re organized.” The bottom line Cruz is moving to ensure a majority of the 2,472 delegates at the GOP national convention would back him in a floor fight.