Video: Ford's 1976 'Delegate Hunter' On Trump and How Open Conventions Work

Guy Benson
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Posted: Apr 12, 2016 10:30 AM
Video: Ford's 1976 'Delegate Hunter' On Trump and How Open Conventions Work

Over the course of its history, the Republican Party has played host to ten open conventions. Six of those produced nominees that would eventually become presidents, several of whom entered the proceedings trailing in the delegate count (including Presidents Garfield, Hayes, and Lincoln).  Depending on how the voting and delegate selection process plays out between now and June 7, another contested convention may well be in the offing.  Given that clear possibility, CNN sat down with a man who found himself at the center of the most recent open GOP convention: James Baker, who ran President Ford's delegate operation at the 1976 assembly in Kansas City.  The incumbent was fighting a challenge from conservative upstart Ronald Reagan, who lost relatively narrowly on the opening ballot, thanks in large measure to Baker's efforts.  Here's the man himself -- who went on to serve as White House Chief of Staff under two presidents, including Reagan, and as the Secretary of State and the Treasury -- sharing some of the lessons he internalized during the high-stakes delegate drama he quarterbacked 40 years ago.  Well worth your time:


Fun, fascinating stuff -- especially the bits about "outrageous" and "inappropriate" demands some delegates raised as the Ford team wooed them. Looking at his experience through a 2016 lens, Baker rejects Trump's self-serving argument that the delegate leader heading into Cleveland should win the nomination. That's not how the rules work, Baker accurately notes, later cautioning that mid-stream rule changes designed to hamstring the frontrunner could raise more legitimate hackles. He seems to take a dim view of the Trump campaign's preparedness for the hard work of delegate-wrangling. "They need to be ramping up a sophisticated delegate selection process, he says. "I'm not sure that they've been paying very much attention to their ground game." They have not, which is why the Cruz camp has mopped the floor with Trump when it comes to the nitty gritty details of the crucial delegate chase. Nowhere was Cruz's stellar organization, and Trump's utter lack thereof, more evident than in Colorado last weekend. Following a now-familiar sore-loser playbook pioneered in Iowa and repeated in Wisconsin, Trumps is whining that he was cheated in the Rocky Mountain State. The fact of the matter is that his campaign got its clock cleaned under the long-established (albeit odd and undemocratic) system, wherein the state's party convention selected all of its presidential delegates. Cruz recognized the rules and deployed a well-oiled operation, sweeping the available delegates. Trump, members of whose team were bragging about "kicking Cruz's butt" in Colorado just days before the voting, got shut out -- totally and completely due to his own incompetence. For example:


As others have noted, Trump's disarray undercuts two of his central campaign rationales: First, that he's the King of Winning who surrounds himself by -- cough -- the best and brightest (if you can't beat Ted Cruz in a delegate race, how are you supposed to outfox all those foreign leaders whom you so often praise as much smarter than American politicians?), and second, that he's a consummate dealmaking wheeler and dealer (shouldn't cutting deals and locking down delegates be his forte?) who knows how to get things done.  Instead, Trump and friends are making conspiratorial excuses for their failures, employing extreme (and ironic) hyperbole to lay the groundwork for framing a Trump-unfriendly open convention as illegitimate.  Forget all these "rigged," "crooked," and "corrupt" rules, they say, and respect the people's voice.  Over to you, NBC:

Donald Trump blasted the GOP's delegate rules Sunday, saying a "corrupt" system is denying him delegates in states he won. According to a new NBC analysis, however, Trump has benefited far more than Ted Cruz under the party's arcane rules for allocating delegates. Trump now leads the Republican field with 756 delegates — or 45 percent of all delegates awarded to date. Yet he has won about 37 percent of all votes in the primaries, according to the NBC analysis, meaning Trump's delegate support is greater than his actual support from voters. For each percentage point of total primary votes that Trump has won, he has been awarded 1.22 percent of the total delegates. In other words, as a matter of Republican Party math, Trump has been awarded a delegate bonus of 22 percent above his raw support from voters.

To sum up, the very rules against which he's been fulminating have actually helped Trump develop a delegate haul that significantly outpaces his popular vote performance. Sixty-three percent of 'the people's voice' has sided with a Republican candidate other than Trump thus far. What are the odds Trump voluntarily relinquishes the "extra" delegates he's won as a direct result of the rules he's bashing?  Roughly...zero?  I'll leave you with this, via Rush Limbaugh: