U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump on Thursday made inroads with the Republican Party by sending envoys to meet with congressional supporters in Washington and party leaders in Florida.
Ted Cruz, John Kasich and a representative of front-runner Trump all made an intense push on Wednesday to curry favor with elected party leaders at a Republican National Committee meeting at an oceanside resort in Florida where they are holding three days of talks focused mostly on their July presidential convention in Cleveland.
Aides to Trump, who has complained bitterly about the Republicans’ delegate-selection process, remained in Florida on Thursday to host an evening reception there for the party leaders. In Washington, lawmakers left a morning meeting on Capitol Hill with Trump adviser Ed Brookover saying they believe it is inevitable Trump will received the 1,237 delegates he needs to become the Republican nominee.
All three contenders are trying to make the case to the RNC members, some of whom are delegates to the Republican National Convention that will choose the nominee, that they have the best chance to win the Nov. 8 presidential election.
The push comes after Trump, 69, regained the momentum in the Republican race after his crushing defeat of Kasich and Cruz in Tuesday’s New York primary. The victory boosted Trump’s delegate tally to 845 while Cruz has 559 and Kasich 147, according to the Associated Press.
The Republican delegate totals include one unbound delegate for Trump and 16 for Cruz who are free to support another candidate at any time.
Cruz, 45, a U.S. senator from Texas, and Kasich, 63, the Ohio governor, are trying to prevent Trump from winning the nomination outright so they can force a contested convention.
TRUMP: “GET OUT!”
At a contested convention, there would be a series of sequential votes and additional bound delegates would become unbound with each cycle until one candidate gets a majority for the nomination.
“Senator Ted Cruz has been MATHEMATICALLY ELIMINATED from race,” Trump said on Twitter on Thursday. “He said Kasich should get out for same reason. I think both should get out!”
But Cruz told a news conference on Wednesday: “What is clear today is that we are headed toward a contested convention.”
“Nobody is able to reach 1,237. I’m not going to reach 1,237, and Donald Trump is not going to reach 1,237,” Cruz said, adding the he had the ability to unite the Republican Party after a bitter nomination battle.
Kasich said opinion polls showed he was the only Republican candidate who could defeat Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“My message to the delegates is that I can win,” Kasich told reporters on Wednesday night. “It’s reflected in every poll.”
Tensions between Kasich and Cruz erupted at the Wednesday meeting, as Cruz complained Kasich’s insistence on remaining in the race despite having won only Ohio’s Republican primary meant he was trying to be a spoiler and end up as Trump’s vice president.
“He’s saying if I can’t mathematically win the nomination I should get out,” Kasich shot back. “He can’t mathematically win. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Trump’s representatives are doing outreach with RNC members who have bristled at the New York billionaire’s repeated attacks on popular Chairman Reince Priebus and his complaints that the system of awarding delegate in some states is corrupt.
Rick Wiley, Trump’s national political director, was wooing delegations from the five states – Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island – that will hold nominating contests next Tuesday.
The RNC’s rules committee is to meet on Thursday but is not expected to make any recommendations on rules changes concerning the July 18-21 convention.
Some anti-Trump forces, alarmed by his comments on immigration, Muslims and trade, would like to change the rules in a way to make it easier for Cruz, Kasich or an establishment candidate to defeat Trump for the nomination.
But Priebus has said any decisions should be left up to the rules committee that actually governs the convention. Members of that committee have not been selected yet and they will meet the week before the convention.
New reports surfaced late Wednesday that the political organization run by wealthy brothers Charles and David Koch under the collective banner of Freedom Partners would be pulling out of planned events at the Cleveland convention.
Freedom Partners’ James Davis confirmed to Reuters that the organization does not have plans at either party’s summer nominating convention.
Koch groups that include Americans for Prosperity, Concerned Veterans for America and a Latino outreach group called Libre plan to spend $400 million collectively before the November elections.
The Kochs, unhappy with a potential Trump nomination, have indicated they will focus on congressional races in order to preserve Republican majorities in the U.S. House and Senate.