Even as his campaign struggles for survival, Senator Ted Cruz dominated weekend delegate selection contests that he and other Republicans hope could block Donald Trump from winning the party’s nomination at their national convention.
From Virginia in the east to Arizona in the west, the Texan nearly ran the tables at state party conventions where delegates were picked to attend the July meeting in Cleveland. Trump, meanwhile, said the nominating race is already “over.”
Trump has won the most state primaries, including a sweep of five northeastern states on April 26, and has gained over 10 million votes from primary and caucus voters so far, to Cruz’s 6.9 million. Yet Cruz’s campaign has repeatedly shown superior organization and understanding when it comes to the arcane delegate-selection process and his quest to secure people loyal to him at a possible contested convention.
“It is going to be a contested convention,” Cruz said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” broadcast. “I believe at the convention, the highest total Trump gets, it will be the first ballot and that we are seeing the party unite behind our campaign.”
Cruz’s delegate wins could be merely symbolic, though, if Trump secures the 1,237 delegates needed win the party’s presidential nomination. The real estate developer could still do that on June 7, when California, New Jersey and three other states hold the final set of Republican primaries, offering a total of 303 delegates.
Trump said a win in Indiana on Tuesday meant the Republican race was done and dusted. “Yes, it’s over. I think it’s over now, but it’s over,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Cruz cannot win, he’s got no highway, he’s got nothing, he’s way behind. I’m leading him by millions and millions of votes and I’m leading him by 400 or 500 delegates. He can’t win.”
There were also some signs this weekend that Trump’s campaign is getting better at grass-roots organizing. He scored delegate victories in Massachusetts and held his own in Arkansas.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s convention manager, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “right now, we’re starting to focus on unifying the party.”
Arizona was a Cruz blowout, even though Trump won the state’s March 22 primary with 47 percent of the vote to Cruz’s 25 percent. A slate backing the Texan won virtually all of the 28 at-large delegate slots and roughly split the 27 selected by congressional district, according to the Associated Press.
The outcome prompted anger from Trump supporters, including former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. “I got cheated,” the AP quoted her as saying as the results became known.
The campaigns for Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich offered nearly identical slates of candidates and the combined votes helped lead to wins for the Texas senator.
State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, who chairs Trump’s Arizona campaign, told reporters that a challenge to the delegate selection process is possible after the party rejected re-vote calls.
“The Trump campaign is very unhappy with the results,” DeWit told the AP and others. “We don’t feel that this was a fair process. The Trump button got checked more than any other, so why do we have so few delegates?”
Cruz’s campaign pushed back by saying there was no malfeasance involved, and that the delegate victories were simply a matter of adding their supporters with those who don’t want Trump.
In Virginia, Cruz supporters won 10 of 13 delegate slots selected at a state convention, the Washington Post reported.
Cruz finished a distant third in Virginia’s March 1 primary behind Trump and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has since dropped out of the race. Cruz supporters dominated the party’s convention on Saturday at James Madison University in Harrisonburg. The Texan was helped by Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s former attorney general and a campaign aide on the delegate front nationally.
Delegates from Virginia, Arizona and many other states will be required to vote for Trump on the first ballot in Cleveland because he won their primaries and state party rules often require loyalty to the winner on the initial round.
It’s mathematically impossible for Cruz or Kasich to win enough delegates for the nomination before the convention. Instead, the remaining Republican candidates, pared from an initial slate of 17, hope to prevent Trump from winning enough delegates for the nomination.
Tuesday’s Indiana primary will be a critical test for stop-Trump forces. Even Cruz has acknowledged that a Trump win there could make it impossible to block the front-runner from winning the nomination. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll on Sunday showed Trump 15 points ahead of Cruz, a wider margin than other recent surveys compiled by RealClearPolitics.
In Massachusetts, at least 23 of the 27 delegates picked Saturday were supported by the Trump campaign, the Boston Globe reported. Trump easily won the state’s March 1 primary.
At congressional district conventions in Arkansas, where Trump narrowly beat Cruz in the March 1 primary, the front-runner won half of the 12 delegates selected Saturday, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Five others supported Cruz.
After Trump’s dominant wins this week he has 996 delegates, according to an AP tally. Cruz has 565, followed by a distant Kasich at 153.