It looks like Senator Ted Cruz is trying to take Arizona delegates away from Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump by ensuring they flock to Cruz at a contested convention.
Trump had previously won the Arizona primary election last month with 47% of the state’s votes. Cruz only earned 25% of the votes, which allowed Trump to earn all 58 delegates in Arizona. This makes up 5% of the total 1,237 delegates that is needed to secure the GOP nomination. These 58 delegates are required by law to vote for Trump at the convention on the first ballot.
However, Cruz has constantly exposed how grassroots Republicans are in opposition to Trump, especially in Arizona. Cruz is trying to recruit candidates who still have to fill the 55 delegate slots in Arizona, while the remaining three slots are taken by GOP leaders. That way if there is a contested convention with multiple ballots then the other 55 delegates can vote for Cruz on any subsequent ballot.
“Cruz, out of all the campaigns, has the most folks on the ground and has been the most organized,” Michael Noble said on Friday to the Washington Examiner. Noble is a neutral Republican.
“Trump has no real organization in Arizona,” Republican strategist Sean Noble wrote in an email exchange (there is no relation between Sean Noble and Michael Noble). “Cruz will get most/all Arizona delegates on second ballot.”
Grassroots organizing is something the Cruz campaign is very skilled at and it has helped him win delegate elections in many states, counties and precincts throughout the United States. Over the weekend this was proven in North Dakota because Cruz was predicted to win 18 delegate slots out of the 25 available in the state when they have their Republican convention in Fargo.
Constantin Querard, a top Arizona organizer for Cruz, showed optimism in a telephone interview about the progress being made with potential delegates wanting to support Cruz. Republican legislator David Livingston, who is a majority whip in the Arizona House of Representatives, is on the Cruz team.
According to Livingston, the Cruz team is conducting many texts, phone calls, meetings and emails to try and secure delegates who will be loyal to him. Livingston said he’d be happy with delegates supporting Cruz winning 55% of the available slots, but he thinks the final results will make it a 50/50 split between him and Trump. It would be a huge victory for the Cruz campaign if they can get 29 of the 58 delegates to support Cruz.
“We have a better ground game than Trump does in Arizona,” Livingston said. “They have some good people too, but we have some really, really good people and I’m hoping that when we get to the state convention that gives us a real competitive advantage.”
The Cruz campaign’s strategy in Arizona is about trying to reach more than just loyalists, according to Querard. Cruz wants to get the support of delegate candidates who are currently backing Ohio Governor John Kasich and Senator Marco Rubio. The idea is to get any delegate that opposes Trump onto the Cruz team. And after Trump had a very bad week, there might be some delegate candidates having second thoughts about supporting him. There are also polls showing Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton beating Trump in a hypothetical general election matchup.
“We’re looking for either Cruz supporters or those who recognize that, to win in November, we need Sen. Cruz,” Querard said. “The effort is there, the organization is there, the support team is there. We’re not quite to halftime yet; call me back after next Saturday.”
The 55 delegates that still remain in Arizona are going to be elected by grassroots Republicans throughout the state. They’ll conduct a series of elections locally over the next week and then formalize the delegate line up at the Arizona GOP convention in Mesa on April 30th.
Coming into the Wisconsin primary election on Tuesday, Trump has 736 delegates and Cruz has 463 delegates. Cruz is expected to win Wisconsin and get 42 delegates closer to Trump in the total delegate count. This will make it harder for Trump to get to that magic 1,237 delegate number to secure the nomination. Kasich only has 143 delegates, so he can only hope for a contested convention for any chance of getting the nomination.
Trump has already received endorsements from the Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit as well as Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The delegate operation for the Trump campaign in Arizona is being managed by Thayer Verschoor, who is a former executive director of the Arizona GOP.