Trump talks about losing

By Donna Brazile, NEA Columnist

Donald Trump has gone from talking about winning to talking about losing, fresh off a stunning loss in Wisconsin. He even said the Republican National Committee has "absolutely rigged" the nomination so an "outsider" couldn't win.

Trump's protests, however, are a smoke screen to cover severe inadequacies in the operation of his campaign. He has known for weeks that his camp is in trouble. In mid-March, Trump made his infamous threat that "you'd have riots" if an open convention selected someone other than him.

Trump followed that up by saying the candidate with the most delegates -- rather than a majority (50 percent plus one) of the delegates -- should win. A candidate doesn't say these things if he's confident he will have the nomination in the bag before the convention's first ballot.

However, Trump is a minority winner, having won his primaries by less than 50 percent, most often with just 31 percent to 45 percent of the total vote. He has underperformed. He has understaffed, been careless and amateurish in delegate hunting, and been willfully ignorant of state rules, as if they didn't exist for him.

Let's be clear: Courts have stayed out of lawsuits over how parties select candidates. They are "free associations" of people, and the courts give them wide latitude in how they select their candidates. In the case of the 2016 Republican Party, primary and caucus rules established by each state were in place for months ahead of the actual votes.

Trump decided to run a media campaign. His success at dominating the news is proof that his verbal skills are his strongest suit. But Trump neglected the nuts and bolts of campaigning: workers knocking on doors, identifying supporters and driving those voters to the polls. In this, Sen. Ted Cruz outworked him, handing Trump his first loss in Iowa -- the very first contest of the 2016 cycle.

Organization doesn't end with volunteers and staff. A presidential candidate needs to recruit loyal voters in each state district to run as his delegates. Trump too often neglected this crucial detail. You can't elect convention delegates if you don't recruit your own or contest the opponents'.

In Washington state, for instance, Trump's organization sent out an email seeking supporters to be delegates in one county two days after the deadline had passed. There's more. Trump's email wasn't just late -- he sent it to voters in Washington, D.C., not those in the Evergreen State.

Earlier, Trump complained about Louisiana's results. Trump said he "whipped" Cruz, but a 3.6-point spread is hardly a whooping. Because Louisiana's delegates are awarded in proportion to the total vote (again, by rules made months before the election), Trump and Cruz split the delegates -- 18 apiece. Trump complained that he deserved more.

Later, Cruz, with the help of Sen. Marco Rubio, outmaneuvered Trump and placed Cruz's Louisiana delegates on key convention committees that will decide the convention rules in an open contest. Trump said his delegates were not notified of the meeting. But Time reporters recorded that Trump's two Louisiana co-chairs and several of his delegates were present.

That brings us to Colorado, the state that Trump was complaining most loudly about this week. Colorado Republicans had decided to ditch a binding primary and hold seven district caucuses and a state convention to select unbound delegates. That action is arguably undemocratic since caucuses tend to attract political activists, not average voters.

Nevertheless, Cruz decided to contest Colorado. And, Trump chose to short-change Colorado. CNN reports that Trump took a week off the campaign trail, canceled appearances in California and Colorado, and snubbed the Colorado state convention.

Trump ran no delegates in one district. In two others, he failed to provide delegates' names to caucusgoers so they'd know who to vote for. Josh Penry, a former Republican leader in the Colorado Senate, told Politico the Colorado results were "a reflection of reality; there is not a lot of Trump support in the first place, (and) add to that the general lack of {Trump) organization and you get goose eggs." Cruz stole Colorado fair and square.

By the end of March, Trump knew his nomination on the first ballot was in peril. He hired a quintessential Republican establishment figure, Paul Manafort, as a convention manager. Manafort is a Washington lobbyist. He was a delegate hunter for Gerald Ford, the Southern coordinator for Ronald Reagan and a deputy political director at the Republican National Committee. Presumably, Manafort was recommended by the very same RNC officials who Trump accuses of "rigging" the convention against him.

In New York, where ballots will be cast Tuesday, Cruz is running third in the polls. As in Wisconsin, Trump is running well in the cities. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the underrated dark horse of 2016, is running competitively in the suburbs. If Kasich can hold Trump's New York vote below 50 percent, even with a double-digit win, Trump's efforts for a first-ballot nomination will be considerably weakened. Trump has no one to blame but himself.

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