‘Double agent’ delegates could block Trump’s nomination

The seeds of a catastrophic split of the Republican Party are being planted.  If Donald Trump doesn’t win on the first ballot in Cleveland, the mechanics of taking away the nomination are clear.  Writing in Bloomberg Politics, Sasha Issenberg explains the complex mechanics of delegate selection, which could result in Trump delegates abandoning him after the first ballot, when they are pledged to vote for him.

Only a small share of the 2,472 total convention delegates are free to pick the candidate of their choice, regardless of the election’s outcome, on the first ballot, while about three-quarters of them are gradually freed to do so on subsequent votes. That means there is a small pool of so-called unbound delegates who are pure free agents, but a much larger number who can be recruited throughout the spring as double agents—delegates who arrive in Cleveland pledged to Trump, all the while working in cahoots with one of his opponents and confessing their true allegiances once it is safe to do so.

“Forty-four states give the delegation-selection authority to a state convention or state executive committee, with no requirement that the candidate have a say in choosing delegates,” says Benjamin Ginsberg, a former general counsel for the Republican National Committee who managed Mitt Romney’s pre-convention delegate strategy. “Centralized power has dissipated in many states so that pockets of grassroots activists hold great sway.”

And who would be best positioned to play the local game, maneuvering “double agents” onto the Trump slate?  That would be someone with strong grassroots support, good planning, and organizing skills, and strategic planning capabilities.  That’s right: Ted Cruz.

“Of any of the campaigns the Ted Cruz people are the best-positioned,” says Iowa Republican operative Grant Young. “Not just because they won. They’ve got a big coalition and they’re organized.”

At Cruz’s Houston headquarters, a six-person team overseen by political operatives, lawyers, and data analysts is effectively re-enacting the primary calendar, often with the aim of placing double agents in Trump slates. The ability to pick up new adherents during the state-convention phase invites Trump’s rivals to look anew at the map of his victories, based on the rules governing individual states. The 36 delegates Trump won in Alabama will be bound to him throughout the nominating process, but the 40 he won in Georgia are free to vote for whomever they choose after the first ballot. Georgia holds its county conventions on Saturday to select delegates for district conventions a month later—the week’s most important stop on the shadow-campaign trail. “We’re making resource allocations based upon stopping Donald Trump,” says Roe. “There’s several scenarios where he doesn’t make 1,237.”

Issenberg’s piece goes deep into the weeds, and it is worth reading in its entirety and saving for future reference.  There are even methods by which Trump-pledged delegates could be denied seating and voting.

But that path would obviously be suicide for the GOP.  The party that displaced the Whigs could join them in the dustbin of history.

The seeds of a catastrophic split of the Republican Party are being planted.  If Donald Trump doesn’t win on the first ballot in Cleveland, the mechanics of taking away the nomination are clear.  Writing in Bloomberg Politics, Sasha Issenberg explains the complex mechanics of delegate selection, which could result in Trump delegates abandoning him after the first ballot, when they are pledged to vote for him.

Only a small share of the 2,472 total convention delegates are free to pick the candidate of their choice, regardless of the election’s outcome, on the first ballot, while about three-quarters of them are gradually freed to do so on subsequent votes. That means there is a small pool of so-called unbound delegates who are pure free agents, but a much larger number who can be recruited throughout the spring as double agents—delegates who arrive in Cleveland pledged to Trump, all the while working in cahoots with one of his opponents and confessing their true allegiances once it is safe to do so.

“Forty-four states give the delegation-selection authority to a state convention or state executive committee, with no requirement that the candidate have a say in choosing delegates,” says Benjamin Ginsberg, a former general counsel for the Republican National Committee who managed Mitt Romney’s pre-convention delegate strategy. “Centralized power has dissipated in many states so that pockets of grassroots activists hold great sway.”

And who would be best positioned to play the local game, maneuvering “double agents” onto the Trump slate?  That would be someone with strong grassroots support, good planning, and organizing skills, and strategic planning capabilities.  That’s right: Ted Cruz.

“Of any of the campaigns the Ted Cruz people are the best-positioned,” says Iowa Republican operative Grant Young. “Not just because they won. They’ve got a big coalition and they’re organized.”

At Cruz’s Houston headquarters, a six-person team overseen by political operatives, lawyers, and data analysts is effectively re-enacting the primary calendar, often with the aim of placing double agents in Trump slates. The ability to pick up new adherents during the state-convention phase invites Trump’s rivals to look anew at the map of his victories, based on the rules governing individual states. The 36 delegates Trump won in Alabama will be bound to him throughout the nominating process, but the 40 he won in Georgia are free to vote for whomever they choose after the first ballot. Georgia holds its county conventions on Saturday to select delegates for district conventions a month later—the week’s most important stop on the shadow-campaign trail. “We’re making resource allocations based upon stopping Donald Trump,” says Roe. “There’s several scenarios where he doesn’t make 1,237.”

Issenberg’s piece goes deep into the weeds, and it is worth reading in its entirety and saving for future reference.  There are even methods by which Trump-pledged delegates could be denied seating and voting.

But that path would obviously be suicide for the GOP.  The party that displaced the Whigs could join them in the dustbin of history.