While the tactics of chief Donald Trump rival to win delegates without voters come under intense scrutiny, a quiet, thus-far-little-focused-on development has occurred that could provide a ray of hope for the Trump team fighting political insiders on their home turf.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s new Republican National Convention manager, just delivered not only a big win in Michigan’s delegate game: He undercut Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) by throwing a separate victory to Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
CNN reported on Saturday evening:
Ted Cruz suffered a rare convention loss Saturday after delegates backing John Kasich and Donald Trump boxed him out of key positions in the Michigan delegation. The Texas senator’s campaign ran eight delegates for eight committee spots and lost every one, alleging it was ‘double-crossed’ by Kasich supporters. The Michigan delegation picked one Trump supporter, Matt Hall, and one Kasich supporter, Judi Schwalbach, for the two seats on the powerful rules committee. The Cruz campaign lost votes for both seats.
CNN’s Tom LoBianco added in his report that this loss is a major defeat for Cruz—and win for Trump—because seats on the convention’s rules committed are “highly coveted prizes for their role in shaping a contested convention in Cleveland.” LoBianco wrote:
After the delegates are selected in each state, they meet as a group and pick the members of four convention committees, the most important of which is the rules committee, which will ultimately decide who can be nominated president. Michigan Cruz leader Saul Anuzis said they were ‘double-crossed’ by Kasich’s campaign. The Kasich delegates were supposed to vote with Cruz delegates, he said, but switched sides and voted with Trump behind closed doors Saturday afternoon.
The tactic, ex-Trump consultant Roger Stone—who is still favorable to Trump even though he isn’t advising the billionaire anymore—told Breitbart News, is just like one he used back in 1980 when he secured the GOP nomination for then president-to-be Ronald Reagan.
“Manafort is a master of the game,” Stone said in an email. “Just as he forged a short term alliance between the Reagan and Bush forces to deny Howard Baker a Maine victory in 1980, he has just teamed with Kasich to shut Cruz out of Michigan.”
Stone was also, like Manafort, a veteran of that 1980 Reagan campaign. Stone worked for Reagan in 1976, as well, while Manafort worked against them that year to secure the nomination for then President Gerald Ford, who ascended to the presidency without being elected due to Spiro Agnew’s and then Richard Nixon’s resignations as a result of the Watergate scandal.
A Nov. 5, 1979, article in the Washington Post, written by Martin Schram, detailed what Manafort did for the Reagan campaign, working secretly with George H.W. Bush to crush Howard Baker. The article doesn’t name Manafort, but Stone—who along with Charlie Black, who would go on with Stone and Manafort to later found their own political consulting firm—worked for the Reagan campaign, and confirmed Manafort was pulling the strings. Black now works for Kasich, so it’s only natural that Black and Manafort would be able to work together easily.
Schram wrote in the late 1970s Washington Post article:
Fearing a certain loss to Baker, Bush’s political director, David Keene, recently contacted his counterpart in the Reagan camp, Charles Black, and proposed a political deal: Bush and Reagan could pull out of the Maine competition in an effort to minimize what they figured would be a public relations game by Baker. Keene confirms that he made the efforts but says that Black turned him down. Now, in the wake of Bush’s victory, Baker official are spreading the word to reporters that Reagan supporters at the GOP forum possibly decided to vote Bush because they were not going to win and were hoping to stop Baker — a suggestion that offers a convenient devil theory to cushion the Baker defeat. Reagan’s chief campaign strategist, John Sears, is inclined to go along with this explanation, though he won’t actually confirm it.
Basically, Reagan’s people tossed votes to Bush to crush Baker, then beat Bush later. That is essentially what Manafort is doing now, and that he has the latitude to use the same tactics he used to get Reagan the nomination in 1980 in order to push Trump over the top this year is a sign that the New York city developer is learning. Trump had previously been running an outsider-type campaign, bashing all the party insiders—people who happen to be GOP convention delegates—but now that he’s on top heading into the home stretch, he’s changing tactics. It’s up to insider types like Manafort to carry Trump into the nomination by doing the pick-and-shovel work necessary to get there.
Manafort is now convinced he’s going to be able to carry Trump over the top before the GOP convention in Cleveland in July.
“I’m confident, we have several ways through June 7th to go over 1,237,” Manafort said in an interview with Chuck Todd on Meet The Press this weekend. “And, you know, not counted in that at all are any of these unbound delegates who are getting selected, many of whom I feel pretty good about.”
That Trump has empowered Manafort has created some internal divisions between Manafort and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Manafort is reporting directly to Trump, and it appears that at this time Lewandowski is reporting directly to Trump as well. But as long as Manafort has the ability to wrangle delegates—and pick up wins like he did in Michigan—he could turn what has amounted to a disastrous past couple of weeks with developments in Colorado, Wisconsin, and elsewhere, around.
Manafort told Todd when asked whether it’s him or someone else running the campaign:
Donald Trump is running this campaign. And I’m working directly for Donald Trump, but I’m working with the whole team as well. And a lot of what’s being talked about is much ado about nothing. Yes, there’s a transition, it’s a natural transition. Trump was doing very well on a model that made sense, but now, as the campaign has gotten to the end stages, a more traditional campaign has to take place. And Trump recognized that and is now reaching out not just with me, but with others as well that you’ll start to see come in.
Trump’s children are backing Manafort, sources say, as well—since they have grown dissatisfied with lack of preparation under the structure put together by Lewandowski. One source said that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who helped write the billionaire’s widely-acclaimed AIPAC speech, is a major supporter of the Manafort takeover internally. Trump, that source said, is said to be very happy about the shutout of Cruz in Michigan and a recent uprising in Nevada—good news for Trump after the setbacks in Wisconsin and Colorado and elsewhere.
What’s more, now that Manafort is officially in the driver’s seat in the Trump operation, that puts Cruz at a disadvantage. “In fact the Cruz people have no one who can count votes and have been romancing a woman from the 2012 Romney operation to run their delegate hunt,” a Republican familiar with the talks told Breitbart News.