Chess is the ultimate game of strategy and tactics. Winning requires players to look well beyond the board in front of them, instead looking several moves ahead, anticipating their opponent’s actions and reactions. Politics is much the same, particularly the presidential nomination process where the chessboard is the entire country and the pieces represent not only the candidates, but also the political parties, organizations, and media.
A gambit is a strategic move in both chess and politics, deliberately accepting a short term loss in exchange for a longer term gain. The skillful chess player will sacrifice a pawn to capture a bishop several moves later. The politician may ignore the votes of one group to capture the votes of a larger group more beneficial to the ultimate goal of winning the election.
Colorado has been front and center of the political world these past few weeks over the Republican convention and delegate selection process. Ted Cruz walked away with all 34 convention delegates. Donald Trump basically sat out the convention process, cancelling his appearance at the last minute.
After the fact, Trump is crying foul, saying the system is “rigged.” Cruz, on the other hand, accuses Trump of “whining,” blaming Trump’s strike out on his reliance on pomp and bravado over understanding delegate the rules in Colorado. Which is it? A bad chess move by Trump or a gambit for a bigger prize a few moves later?
Whether the Colorado GOP “rigged the system” certainly can and should be debated. But they are a private organization making their own rules. Just like any exclusive country club in town makes its own rules over who becomes a member, where in the clubhouse one can wear shorts, cell phone use and a host of other restrictions. Don’t like it? Don’t join. Or work to change the rules.
Did Trump and his campaign not know the delegate rules put into place last summer? The business mogul who successfully negotiated myriad rules and regulations for building in such bureaucratic havens as New York City and Chicago couldn’t understand the Colorado GOP delegate allocation process? Doubtful.
Instead Trump’s momentum stalled after losing Wisconsin, his fourth loss in a row. His quest to earn 1237 delegates before the convention was faltering. Time to regain his electoral mojo, and where better than in Colorado. A purple state which will be important in the general election.
He could have attended the GOP convention like Cruz and fought for some of the 34 delegates. He might have picked up a handful of delegates but he was looking further ahead. Instead his gambit was sacrificing his knight to take the queen a few chess moves later.
The Colorado GOP handed Trump another chance to deliver his populist message that has so far served him well. In his Wall Street Journal editorial last week he railed against the “rigged delegate-selection process” asking voters “How has the system been working out for you and your family?” If he attended the convention, his outcry would have been hollow. Trump surrogate Sarah Palin cancelled her appearance at the Wyoming GOP convention, setting up a repeat of Colorado. Another sacrifice of 29 delegates for a bigger future prize?
Trump’s anti-establishment message is resonating. He is above 50 percent in delegate rich New York with substantial leads in neighboring Connecticut, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. All of which edges him closer to a first ballot victory in Cleveland.
Sacrifice the Colorado pawn for the Northeast queen a few moves later. What is unfortunate is that the Colorado GOP walked into this. Disenfranchising Republican voters over party insiders and activists had the unintended consequence of helping the candidate the Colorado GOP despises. As Donald himself said, “Sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make.