While billionaire businessman Donald Trump might lock up the Republican presidential nomination in the next five weeks of voting, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has been busy for weeks courting delegates behind the scenes that can act independent of voters’ wills — a system Trump has called “corrupt.”
Trump supporters haven’t been willing to take that lying down — and they seem to be unraveling Cruz’s work quickly.
According to recent reports, delegates who had committed to supporting Cruz could be ready to ditch him en masse, essentially killing his ability to force a contested Republican convention in July.
“It turns out that delegates — like ordinary voters — are susceptible to shifts in public opinion. And as the gravitational pull of Mr. Trump’s recent primary landslides draws more Republicans toward him, Mr. Cruz’s support among the party’s 2,472 convention delegates is softening, threatening his hopes of preventing Mr. Trump’s nomination by overtaking him in a floor fight,” The New York Times recently reported.
The Times added that, “Voters may be starting to share Mr. Trump’s reasoning that he would deserve the nomination even if he fell short of 1,237 delegates. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that more than six in 10 Republicans believe the nominee should be the candidate with the most votes even if he does not have the support of the majority of delegates.”
Trump, for his part, is beginning to organize groups of supporters to make sure Republican National Convention delegates don’t deny him the party’s nomination.
Outside groups, including one led by longtime Trump political ally Roger Stone, and a loose collection of colorful supporters such as “Bikers for Trump” are organizing ahead of the July convention in Cleveland.
They’re soliciting money to pay for their transportation and housing, and they’re already trying to influence the mood of the convention with a social media campaign saying that anything short of a Trump nomination would be “stealing.”
“Our principal focus right now is Cleveland,” Stone said of his group, called Stop the Steal. “We want to bring as large a contingent as possible to demonstrate the breadth of Trump’s appeal so that the party can see graphically what they’re going to lose if they hijack the nomination from him.”
Stop the Steal and other Trump fans are pushing that message on social media and websites.
“The big steal is in full swing,” one online letter says, calling unfriendly delegates “stooges.”
The Stone-led Cleveland coalition includes We Will Walk, Bikers for Trump, Citizens for Trump and Women for Trump. Stone said the goal is to bring thousands of people to march peacefully in the streets.
“We are prepared to bring the Republican Party down if they mess with Trump and try to take it away from him by doing the dirty tricks,” said Paul Nagy, a New Hampshire Republican. He runs We Will Walk, a group that has collected more than 41,000 online signatures of people who say Trump deserves the nomination.
A different pro-Trump group, Great America PAC, also is raising money for a Cleveland effort. This one is led by William Doddridge, chief executive officer of the Jewelry Exchange.
Its commercials warn that “party elites” will try to seize the nomination from Trump at the convention and suggest that people stop that from happening by calling an 800 number and giving money.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.