The Republican National Committee (RNC) committee members Harmeet Dhillon and Shawn Steel, along with California GOP Chair Jessica Millan Patterson, proposed new procedures for selecting delegates at the end of June.
Trump’s aides and allies reacted quickly to the plan, calling state officials to argue that it would allow lower finishers to claim more delegates than under the old system.
Internet provocateur and white supremacist Laura Loomer claimed the state party was attempting to steal the candidature from Trump, sparking a firestorm of speculation among Trump supporters.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his home-state friends called Patterson after consulting with Trump’s worried inner circle and told her that the current rules framework was untenable.
Within a few of days, Patterson, Dhillon, and the other original authors of the proposal had basically given up on their idea. Campaign advisers for Trump anticipate that he would win more than half of the state’s vote, and so this weekend the California Republican Party’s executive committee enacted regulations that Trump’s team supported.
That’s just one example of how Trump’s campaign has been working secretly to influence the rules for selecting delegates in their favour, or “rigging” the system, as their opponents have put it.
State parties generally determine their own standards for allocating delegates, and most candidates simply follow them. However, the Trump orbit has been quietly reaching out to allies to make tweaks either aimed at locking down the nomination or beating back proposals that could benefit his opponents.
The technical but crucial endeavour demonstrates how politically astute the Trump organisation has gotten since being taken off guard by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s attempted delegate revolt at the 2016 Republican National Convention. It also shows how Trump’s advisors have been able to easily outmanoeuvre his opponents, with just Ron DeSantis and the Never Back Down super PAC putting up any sort of resistance.
Whoever sets the rules also controls the procedure. Longtime political operative Chris LaCivita, who advised Trump’s campaign, has remarked, “You control process, you win.” This is based on his knowledge of convention and party protocols. Simply put, we’re protecting our flanks. If somebody tries to pull a Cruz in 2016, we won’t stand for it.
Trump’s opponents, unsurprisingly, have a different point of view.
Never Back Down co-founder Ken Cuccinelli said of Trump’s initiatives, “They’re looking to rig the system in their favour.” As one observer put it, “They’re going in and strong-arming the [GOP] committees.”
Cuccinelli, who worked on the convention planning for Cruz in 2016, claims he may have seen this coming. According to his recollection, President Trump used to tease him during his time in the Trump administration for using state party procedures to secure delegates for Cruz in states that Trump had already won.
My delegates, where are you? The thief Cuccinelli has stolen them! Trump is a joking man.
Cuccinelli had promised to assist Trump “fix the system” to prevent this very thing from happening. By that time, though, Trump had come to realise that he, too, was capable of playing the same games Cruz had played, if not better: “Well, maybe I want them rigged now,” he said to Cuccinelli.
“He is against rigged elections when they hurt him,” Cuccinelli remarked of the former. He seems to have no problem with election fraud if it benefits him.