Depending on how you look at the primary process, Donald Trump may have a point…
Last Sunday, this tweet came in from the Twitter grapevine.
Just to show you how unfair Republican primary politics can be, I won the State of Louisiana and get less delegates than Cruz-Lawsuit coming
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2016
Trump’s complaint is simple; Ted Cruz is leaving Louisiana’s GOP primary with more delegates even though Trump got the most votes in the state’s primaries. Usually Trump spouting nonsense over threatening to sue people on Twitter is nothing new. Nine times out of ten, we tend to pay no mind at whatever perceived slight he is currently ranting about at the moment. But does he have a point this time?
Trump’s complaint goes back to March 5th with the results from the GOP’s Louisiana primary. As you may have remembered, Trump inched past Ted Cruz in a 41% to 37% win. The delegate total in Louisiana is 46. Of those 46 delegates, 41 of those are “bound” (delegates that have to vote based on what the electorates in that district voted) and 5 are “unbound” (delegates that can vote for whichever candidate they want at the GOP Convention since they aren’t beholden to any territory or district, think superdelegates but for Republicans). Based on the results of the Louisiana primary, here is how the 41 bound delegates were divvied out.
Donald Trump: 18 delegates
Ted Cruz: 18 delegates
Marco Rubio: 5 delegates
Considering the delegate allocation in Louisiana is proportional, also that both Trump and Cruz were pretty close in the polls, splitting the 18 delegates each makes sense. Yet Trump’s problem with the Louisiana primaries, isn’t the fact that he’s splitting delegates with Cruz even though he won the primary, but that Cruz is leaving Louisiana with 10 more delegates than him. Cruz’s extra delegates come from both Marco Rubio – who gained 5 delegates in the Louisiana primary before he bowed out of the presidential race – and the unbound delegates that we talked about earlier.
Considering Trump’s problems with the Republican Establishment, he was never going to get the 5 unbound delegates which usually consist of Republican Party leaders (ie The Republican Establishment) of that state. So the unbound delegates were always going to Cruz or whoever the anti-Trump candidate would be.
The delegates that Rubio had gained in the primaries however, that are now going to Cruz, their transfer is suspect. Yet under Louisiana primary rules, this is perfectly legal. The problem with election standards in primary elections is that each state has different rules in which they conduct their primaries. Delegates and how they are accounted for fall under this as well. To understand this, you have to understand how bad Trump’s “ground game” is.
For months people have been complaining that Trump’s ground game is piss poor. For those that don’t know what we’re talking about, when we talk about a candidate having a “ground game”, it’s the ability to politick on the inside to make the rules created by the Republican National Committee (RNC) which work in favor of the candidate (or at the very least not go against them). In Louisiana, Cruz was able to take advantage of the delegate rules in such a way to get the five delegates that were originally Rubio’s. Not only that, but there have been reports that Cruz has started to put key supporters in powerful GOP Party committees within various states. So if there were to be a brokered convention, then there is a good chance that the various delegate rules in the GOP might go against Trump from the getting the nomination, since both Rubio and Kasich are currently stacking these committees with their people.
Case in point, with Trump saying he wouldn’t back the GOP nominee if it weren’t him in Tuesday’s Wisconsin Town Hall, that statement might have cost him 50 pledge delegates in South Carolina. The delegate rules in primaries are malleable. This would be even more the case if the GOP convention were brokered. Which by all means, is looking to be the case.
So Then, Was It Fair That Trump Left the Louisiana Primaries w/ 10 Less Delegates Than Cruz?
Honestly how you answer this question depends in how you perceive the purpose of political primaries.
For most political insiders, primaries are all about the Democratic or Republican Party choosing a suitable candidate which they can back in the general election. So to them, there is nothing wrong with how the Cruz campaign got 10 extra delegates through behind the scenes deals, making Louisiana’s primary rules work for them. To political insiders, this is just part of the process of choosing a suitable candidate.
For the general public however – and in this case Donald Trump – finding a nominee is more about figuring out what the party’s electorate wants. The reason Trump is so upset (and threatening to sue) over the delegate count in the Louisiana primaries is because he feels the general electorate had chosen him as the winner, yet the backroom deals that Cruz had done to gain ten more delegates just undermined the entire process.
And in this sentiment, Trump may not be alone.
Say if the GOP convention in a couple of months is a brokered convention. Now say if Trump shows up to the convention with around 1,100 delegates, which would fall short of the 1,237 needed to clinch the nomination, but enough to have a sizable lead over both Cruz and Kasich. If the Republican Party were to deny Trump the nomination using obscure election rules, then would the electorate that voted in the GOP primaries accept this? Isn’t that the core reason why the Trump Movement has caught so much steam in the first place, that they’re tired of high ranking members controlling the future of the Republican Party?
As we said in our 10-Point Expert on superdelegates, Sanders supporters were afraid early on that Hillary Clinton would use superdelegates to steal the election from Bernie Sanders. But as we stated, to do that would cause chaos within the Democratic Party, so much so that the Party could lose their legitimacy and their voting base for multiple election cycles. If the GOP were to deny Trump the nomination with inner-party maneuvering, while it being absolutely within the rules, it could undermine the entire primary process and the GOP could lose legitimacy among their base.
So while what happened in Louisiana was entirely within the primary rules, it’s hard to deny that it wasn’t undermining fundamental voting process of the primaries. If more rules changes are put into place to undermine results of the primary elections, that could bring a question of whether political primaries serve the party’s electorate or not? An existential thread no political party wants to pull.
(Photo Credits: Donald Trump’s Instagram Account, Pixabay.com, Google Images)