Donald Trump won Arizona in a landslide over [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore] — 47 percent to 25 percent — but the Cruz campaign has been actively working behind the scenes to select delegates who would support him over Trump should no candidate win the nomination on the first ballot.
Arizona’s delegates are bound to the winner of the state’s primary on the first ballot, but are free to vote for anyone after that. The Cruz campaign is recruiting delegate candidates who would, should no candidate reach the majority 1,237-vote threshold, vote for him in subsequent ballots.
The Washington Examiner reports the Cruz campaign is “exploiting deep opposition to Trump among grassroots Republicans, has been far more active in Arizona than Trump, insiders say. He’s recruiting candidates for the available 55 delegate slots, that along with the other three delegate positions filled by party leaders, would be allowed to vote for him in a multi-ballot contested convention.”
Should the nomination go beyond the first ballot, which it looks like it might, having Cruz loyalists representing Arizona means they would be free to vote for him.
The Trump campaign has been criticized for a lack of ground game in the delegate selection process in the past, but has hired Paul Manafort to address this issue. Manafort brings much needed experience in navigating a contested convention, having worked with President Gerald Ford to fend off a challenge by Ronald Reagan at the 1976 convention.
The fight now centers on delegate selection, picking delegates who, should the nomination go past the point when state party rules free delegates from the state’s voting choice, will be loyal to a particular candidate. The Cruz campaign has a major head start in this delegate selection process, having scooped up favorable delegates in Louisiana after losing the primary vote and positioning himself for loyal delegates in Colorado and North Dakota.
“Trump has no real organization in Arizona,” GOP strategist Sean Noble told the Examiner. “Cruz will get most/all Arizona delegates on second ballot.”