While Donald Trump is winning big delegate states and trumpeting his presumptive-nominee status, GOP presidential rival Sen. Ted Cruz and his campaign are quietly fighting -- and winning -- delegate support, the latest coming Saturday night in Maine.
Cruz won 19 of 20 delegates at the Maine GOP convention. The Texas senator won the state’s GOP caucus last month and was supposed to get 12 delegates, with nine going to second-place finisher Trump and two going to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who finished in third, according to Maine GOP Gov. Paul LePage.
The governor said in response to the delegate distribution that the Cruz campaign had reneged on a deal to “put up a unity slate that would honor the wishes of the thousands of Mainers who voted at caucus.”
The Cruz campaign responded by pointing out that LePage is a Trump supporter and saying Cruz indeed “stands with the grass-roots, who made our caucus victory in Maine possible,” according to a statement obtained by CNN.
On Saturday, the Cruz campaign picked up a total of 65 delegates, including nine in three Minnesota congressional districts, one in a South Carolina congressional district and at least 36 of 37 national delegates in Utah, after winning the state’s GOP caucus last month, according to Politico.
Still, Cruz’s efforts might be too little, too late. He significantly trails Trump in the overall delegate count and could be mathematically eliminated after Tuesday’s primaries of getting the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination before the party’s July nominating convention.
Before Saturday, Trump had 845 pledged delegates, followed by Cruz with 559 and Kasich with 148.
If the front-running Trump enters the convention without the 1,237 and doesn’t win the nomination on the first round of balloting, the so-called “unbound delegates” are free to vote in subsequent rounds for essentially any candidate.
Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island hold primaries Tuesday, with most polls showing Trump with a double-digit leads over the field.
The Cruz campaign working conventions, like those recently in Colorado and Wyoming, to win delegates is not new, nor are accusations that the campaign has used strong-arm tactics to win over delegates.
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said earlier this month in response to such accusations that the campaign is “working hard to build a superior organization and are working within the process and rules that have been established.”
Trump continues to argue that the delegate distribution process is “rigged.”
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on “Fox News Sunday” downplayed Cruz’s weekend haul of delegates, saying events Saturday were “simply confirming the results of primaries.”
“Cruz got zero,” Manafort said. He also argued Cruz broke the Maine deal at the last minute because he didn't care about the local officials or the voters.
“That’s not the Trump approach,” he said. “We are running the campaign to win the votes on the first ballot and we're going to win on the first ballot.”