To get elected as a Minnesota delegate to the Republican National Convention, a candidate must declare which presidential candidate they will represent in balloting — but not which candidate they really support.
That ambiguity in the delegate selection process has Trump volunteers in Minnesota crying foul as they try to ensure that the seven delegates Trump won in Minnesota’s presidential preference poll on March 1 truly want Trump to be president; and that those delegates will support Trump on multiple ballots at the national convention if necessary.
The gripe echoes a complaint coming from Trump himself: that political insiders have “rigged” the awarding of delegates to deny him the nomination if he falls short of the 1,237 delegates needed to win nomination on a first ballot in Cleveland.
Dozens of Trump Minnesota volunteers are now contacting Republicans who plan to show up at Minnesota’s eight congressional district conventions later this month, when each district will elect three delegates as part of the 38-member Minnesota national slate.
Kevin Kinzi of New Brighton is one of those volunteers. “We are calling all around the state,” he said. “Our task is to get the most actual Trump supporters elected as delegates.”
Kinzi estimates he’s made about 1,500 phone calls and counting. He’s aware that Trump is getting bested by Sen. Ted Cruz in this aspect of the campaign. “We are coming late to the game,” he said.
“They are late to the game, but they are working their tails off now,” said Chris Fields, deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican party. “I think its fair to say that the Trump folks have been very passionate and aggressive, especially given that we have 17 Rubio delegates that are going to be unbound on the first ballot.”
Marco Rubio won those 17 delegates in the March 1 presidential poll, while Cruz won 13 and Trump won eight.
The Cruz campaign has been focused on filling the Rubio slots with Cruz supporters. “The Cruz guys have a solid ground game and a lot of their delegates are known in the Republican community,” Fields said.
Cruz is making a meticulous, granular effort across the country to reach out to delegates who could give him the Republican presidential nomination if Trump does not secure it on the first ballot.
Trump supporters like Kinzi view those tactics as proof of the backdoor politics that their candidate has railed against. “If they try and cheat Trump out of the nomination it will be the second American Revolution,” Kinzi said.
So Kinzi spends his days contacting not only potential Minnesota national delegates but delegates in other states. “We’re going to have the 1,237 delegates and if they cheat us, be prepared for war,” he promised.
The war has already started in Minnesota at the congressional district level. And veterans of state conventions predict that the Cruz and Trump battle for delegates will still be in full swing at the state party convention on May 20-21 in Duluth.