Over the weekend, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) continued siphoning delegates away from Donald Trump in states in which delegates remain uncommitted. In North Dakota, the state Republican Party met in convention to determine their delegates. Cruz won 18 of the 28 members of the delegation; those 18 are all open Cruz supporters.
Meanwhile, Cruz is reportedly working in Arizona; according to The Washington Examiner, “He’s recruiting candidates for the available 55 delegate slots, that along with the other three delegate positions filled by party leaders, would be allowed to vote for him in a multi-ballot contested convention.” Effectively, this means that after the first ballot, Cruz will win many Arizona delegates.
Then, in Colorado, Cruz gained six national delegates elected at two congressional district conventions, according to the Denver Post. Trump won zero delegates.
All of this follows the news that despite Trump’s narrow victory in the Louisiana primary in early March, Cruz walked away with more delegates, plus convention committee delegates working on rules and credentialing at the Convention in July. This led Trump to threaten a lawsuit against the Louisiana Republican Party.
So, is Cruz cheating?
Only if you consider knowing the rules of the game cheating. The rules may suck – indeed, they probably do, considering that winner-take-all primaries are certainly as unfair as unbound delegates – but they are indeed the rules. And Trump himself is happy to change the rules: now he wants the Republican National Committee to force Ohio Governor John Kasich from the race, a development that early on would have helped Cruz.
On a broader level, the Trump campaign complains that if they win less than 1,237 delegates but still a plurality, Trump ought to be handed the nomination. This is nonsense. All over the country, various states have run-off election systems in which candidates must gain a majority to win an initial election round outright; if nobody wins a majority, the two top candidates hold a run-off election. That isn’t unfair, and that isn’t stealing. In some ways, it’s fairer than a first past the post system, which neglects the fact that voters sometimes choose third-place and fourth-place candidates, but would prefer the second-place finisher to the first-place finisher.
Trump complaining that he has won the most delegates but not enough to gain the nomination, and therefore ought to be handed the nomination, is the equivalent of a baseball team up 2-1 in the World Series claiming that they should be handed the trophy. It takes four wins to win. And it takes 1,237 delegates to win the nomination. If Trump wins the nomination with fewer delegates, that’s moving the goalposts – a Trump specialty, but not a moral or legal argument.