Cruz awarded 13 pledged delegates as shadowy battle turns to Colorado

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The shadow battle for Republican convention delegates turned to Colorado Saturday, where a days-long selection process culminated in Texas Sen. Ted Cruz once again having the edge.

While Donald Trump still holds a wide delegate lead in the GOP presidential primary race, his Achilles heel has been a perceived weakness in his ground game. Seeking to capitalize on this, Cruz has outmaneuvered Trump lately in the behind-the-scenes battle for delegates in places that don't assign them through traditional primaries or caucuses.

Enter states like North Dakota, and now Colorado.

All 13 of the delegates in play on Saturday have been pledged to Cruz. This means that all of the delegates elected here today are committed to Cruz on the first ballot at the convention in Cleveland.

Seven "alternate" delegates each pledged themselves to Cruz and rival Trump.

Both North Dakota and Colorado eschewed traditional primary elections and instead held conventions -- where delegates not necessarily bound to any candidate are selected. Cruz saw this as an opportunity anyway to get allies elected to the slate, banking on their support in the event of an open convention.

The candidate, after picking up more likely delegate allies than Trump in last weekend's North Dakota convention, has been on a roll in Colorado.

Thirty-four delegates total are at stake in the Centennial State's convention process.

In Colorado, delegates can pledge themselves to a candidate or run unbound.

“His team has been masterful in being able to use their influence and power … to pull the delegates in,” Jeanne Zaino, professor of political science and international studies at Iona College, told LIVE.

Trump has been trying to beef up his team's delegate expertise, recently hiring convention veteran Paul Manafort to organize and implement his convention push.

While Trump is not scheduled to appear in Colorado, the campaign recently replaced their state director, and their new operative on the ground, Patrick Davis, told Breitbart News they are distributing Trump slates and "talking with convention delegates face to face [and] changing minds."

But Cruz will appear in person, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich has dispatched former New Hampshire Sen. John E. Sununu.

“We’ve seen very little sign of Donald Trump, and a lot more Kasich stickers than Donald Trump stickers,” Andrew Boucher, a chief convention strategist for John Kasich, told

Cruz’s in-person appearance is part of a wider strategy to dominate the state’s nominating process. Colorado Republican operatives say that, just by winning the local gatherings, Cruz could lock down a majority of the 34 delegates up for grabs, even before Saturday's convention.

"Cruz has the big upper hand here," Ryan Lynch, a Colorado-based Republican told The Associated Press. "They're the only ones really organized."

Although the 34 delegates up for grabs may seem paltry compared with the 95 in New York and 172 in California -- both upcoming primary contests -- strategists point out that every delegate Cruz gets is one more step toward holding Trump under the necessary 1,237 delegates in the event of a contested convention.

“While Trump is leading in several upcoming states like New York and Pennsylvania, Cruz is pulling out all the stops with strategies to capture delegates in order to get to a contested convention,” Ron Bonjean, an unaffiliated Republican strategist, told “Every delegate that is picked off in places like Colorado is a win for Cruz and makes it harder for Trump to be the nominee.”

Kasich’s team is also taking a long-view approach, planting the seeds with unbound delegates that the Ohio governor could be the best choice at the convention in Cleveland in July.

“We are actively reaching out them. We are planting the seeds,” Boucher said. “It’s a long process.”

Trump to date has 743 delegates, while Cruz has 520 and Kasich has 143. Cruz was boosted by his Tuesday win in the Wisconsin primary, though Trump is favored to win the next bout in New York.'s Adam Shaw and Fox News' Serafin Gomez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.