James Hohmann: Is Trump a 'choke artist'?

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A man is surrounded by campaign signs before a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Albany, New York. Photo / AP
A man is surrounded by campaign signs before a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Albany, New York. Photo / AP

Donald Trump loves to call Mitt Romney "a choke artist" because he could not beat Barack Obama in 2012.

But Rick Santorum dropped out of the Republican race four years ago, effectively giving Romney the nomination.

At this point, in the best case scenario for Trump, he will maintain his lead but not secure the 1237 delegates needed to become the GOP's standard bearer until June 8, when California and New Jersey hold primaries.

In The Art of the Deal, Trump emphasised the importance of closing the sale. "You can't con people, at least not for long," he wrote in 1987. "You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on."

Once again, Trump struggled last weekend to deliver the goods. And often it was attributable as much or more to his own campaign's organisational failures than to Ted Cruz being a brilliant tactician.

In Colorado, Cruz swept all of the available delegates at a convention. Ed O'Keefe reported on Trump dysfunction from Colorado Springs: "The convention planned to choose the final 13 delegates from a list of more than 600 people who are running for the positions. Each of the presidential campaigns and several conservative groups are running slates of like-minded candidates, hoping to pool their support and prevail among the thousands casting ballots. . . . In the hours before [the] vote, Trump supporters distributed glossy white flyers (with their slate) ... But several names were misspelled or assigned the wrong ballot number . . . The mistakes were exposed at the worst possible moment . . . Trump volunteers frantically printed new lists with new names and ballot numbers - but those lists also had mistakes."

Creating more conflict in the hall, the Colorado GOP account tweeted out this below:

We did it. #nevertrump
@cologop

Facing blowback, the party deleted the tweet and posted this:

The last tweet was the result of unauthorized access to our account and in no way represents the opinion of the party. We are investigating.
@cologop

But Trump supporters conceded defeat in the Rocky Mountain State: "I've been in politics exactly 37 days," said Pamela Gentry, who began organising a slate of Trump delegates less than two months ago when she realised that the campaign hadn't started organising. "It would have been nice if it was a couple of months ago."

In South Carolina, where Trump handily won the primary, several anti-Trump activists won delegate slots at district-level conventions. They will be compelled to vote for him on the first ballot at the convention, but then they'll become free agents, reported the State.

In Washington state, Trump's campaign sent an email encouraging supporters to sign up to be a potential Trump delegate two days after the filing deadline.

In New York, two of Trump's children reportedly did not register as Republicans in time to become eligible to vote for their dad in next week's primary. (New York has a closed primary, so only registered Republicans can participate.)

Trump has also been dealt various setbacks in Indiana, North Dakota, Tennessee, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Georgia, according to Politico. "Massachusetts is also shaping up as a delegate battleground, despite Trump's dominance of the popular vote there. . . . Early indications in North Carolina and Iowa suggested Trump had been routed in the hunt for another 30-plus delegates there."

Paige Bailey of Horseheads, New York, waits for a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to start at Albany. Photo / AP
Paige Bailey of Horseheads, New York, waits for a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to start at Albany. Photo / AP

There are a lot of ways to describe the aforementioned mistakes: Amateur hour. Not ready for prime time. A gang that can't shoot straight.

Getting outmaneuvered has only fuelled Trump's pre-existing impulse to feel like he's being wronged and cheated. "They're trying to subvert the movement," Trump said at a rally in Rochester, New York. "They can't do it with bodies, so they're trying to subvert the movement with crooked shenanigans."

Paul Manafort, Trump's newly-empowered senior adviser, appeared as his surrogate on Meet the Press to accuse Cruz's campaign of using "Gestapo tactics" to win delegates. "We're going to be filing several protests," he said.

Even 10 months in, Trump seems to lack a fundamental understanding of what it takes to become president:

Isn't it a shame that the person who will have by far the most delegates and many millions more votes than anyone else, me, still must fight
@realDonaldTrump

One bright spot for Trump came in Michigan, where his boosters allied with John Kasich's to deny Cruz supporters slots on the convention committees that will oversee disputes about rules and credentials.

Manafort acknowledged that Cruz will likely dominate the Wyoming GOP convention this coming weekend, but he said everything is about to change. "After that, he is done," Manafort told Dan Balz in an interview. "We're going to have our act together. We're going to start putting numbers on that board, and that will become infectious." Just like Trump's repeated promises to act more presidential, we'll believe it when we see it.

Cruz, meanwhile, shifted his messaging this weekend. He has previously expressed confidence that he can secure the nomination outright during the primaries. But, speaking in Las Vegas, he seemed to acknowledge that a multi-ballot convention is likely. "I believe the first ballot will be the highest vote total Donald Trump receives," he said. "And on a subsequent ballot, we're gonna win the nomination and earn the majority."

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Washington Post

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