Cruz Positioning Loyalists in AZ for Large Conference Swing

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 4:44 AM

But if the GOP race heads to the conference floor, Arizona'south massive haul of delegates could overwhelmingly swing to Cruz on a potential second ballot as the Cruz campaign continues to plant loyalists into the state'south delegation.

Cruz Positioning Loyalists in AZ for Large Conference Swing

AZ Republicans voted nearly two-to-one for Donald Trump over Ted Cruz on March twenty-two, handing all of the state's fifty-eight delegates to Trump.

But if the GOP race heads to the conference floor, Arizona'south massive haul of delegates could overwhelmingly swing to Cruz on a potential second ballot as the Cruz campaign continues to plant loyalists into the state'south delegation.

"I think AZ is still in play - it'south the easiest way to declare it," said Robert Graham, the state'south GOP chair.

The Trump campaign is already seething at the suggestion.

"There'south number question Ted Cruz is actively working tough to subvert the will of AZ voters and obtain his delegates out there," said Jeff DeWit, Trump'south state campaign chair.

Trump beat Cruz by nearly 120.000 votes in the primary - and the fifty-eight delegates are required to vote for him in the first circular of balloting. But if Cruz nor Trump get the 1.237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination on the first ballot, the fifty-eight Arizonans will be freed to vote for whoever they chose.

"The delegate count [on a second ballot] won't be reflective of the vote count," said Chris Herring, a Republican chair for a legislative district in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria. "The way the vote went in the presidential preference isn't reflective of the grassroots members of the party."

In the latest week, more than half of Arizona'south legislative districts picked their local delegates to attend this month'south state convention, where the fifty-eight national delegates will be chosen.

"We saw Ted Cruz overwhelmingly obtain his people elected," DeWit acknowledged this weekend, referring specifically to a legislative district in the eastern suburb of Phoenix called Chandler.

The former GOP chair of that district, Jeff Smith, told NBC News on Tuesday that the most of the very conservative, religious Republican activists in the district voted to have Cruz-aligned delegates fill sixty-four of its sixty-seven delegate spots to the state convention.

DeWit, who's aided with one paid ground staffer and volunteers, admitted to not initially "understanding how active" the Cruz team'south efforts would be in the state, saying Trump'south operation has "had to modify our game."

"We didn't realize until that first meeting how tough they were to going to work to thieve the delegates," DeWit said.

That first meeting took space on March twenty-six in Herring'south district. Herring suggested that just forty % of the delegates ultimately picked in his district were faithful to Trump.

With twenty-eight statewide delegates up for grabs on April thirty at the state convention, the implications of either candidate gaining a ordinary majority of state delegates could be resounding. Each of the state'south nine congressional districts will also vote and send three separate delegates.

DeWit gave a nod to the stakes of the local delegate wrangling, saying whichever campaign "has fifty % plus one" of the delegates at the state conference will "get their slate" of delegates chosen to represent the state at the national conference in Cleveland.

Cruz'south state director, Constantine Querard, refused to hedge his bets on a Cruz walloping until following week when each of the county and legislative districts have finished selecting their delegates.

But Querard pushed back on the suggestion by DeWit that the Cruz campaign is engaging in evil delegate "stealing," saying "everyone understands" the nominating process includes the choice of delegates.

"They say, 'They're trying to thieve delegates!'" Querard disputed. "No, chase the rules - and the rules declare it'south a two-step process."

Despite likely gains for Cruz, the Trump team -- after being panned for its efforts to corral delegates in other states - is distant from having yielded the state delegation to Cruz. In the latest week, it's built a notable counter effort to Cruz at these legislative district meetings.

Both campaigns have sought local Republicans to running as delegates, sending targeted emails to Republicans in the districts that are likely backers based on campaign website registration, donor lists and voter identification efforts during the campaign'south primary operation.

The Trump campaign has also dominated several legislative districts and is expected to profit off of the backing of rural counties as well.

"You can't forget those guys," said Graham, the state party chair, about the rural voters, noting: "It'south beautiful darn near right now. The reality: This is a full-frontal assault."

Trump activist Christine Bauserman, who lives in Tucson, pointed to several southern AZ districts, where -- despite Cruz, she said, having "been more organized" - an insurgency of new people arriving to these meetings for Trump gave the candidate several "two to one" victories in the region.

"Pretty excellent for a nonexistent ground game, you think?" Bauserman quipped.

Chad Heywood, the recently-departed executive director of the AZ Republican Party, said the Cruz campaign deserves credit for its field operation because of the specific hiring of one of the state'south most prominent and connected political consultants, Constatine Querard.

"Constantine runs twenty to thirty legislative races a year for conservative candidates in conservative heavy districts," Heywood said. "Trump has some enthusiastic leaders, but they're not organized in those legislative districts love Constantine and his network are -- they know the grassroots."

Cruz'south national campaign manager, Jeff Roe, is also personally tied to the state as well - his political firm ran the congressional campaign efforts of Martha McSally, who beat fmr. Rep. Ron Barber, and Wendy Rogers, who lost to Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. But the more notable client of Roe'south in the two thousand fourteen campaign cycle is DeWit, the state treasurer and the same hard-charging state chair for Trump that's presently his counter.

As the grassroots prepares for its muddy melee, the state party apparatus - the governor, attorney general, party chair and the committeeman and committeewoman to the RNC - has continued to look from afar.

"I don't know what anyone would gain by wading into it," said a Republican operative in the state not connected to either campaign. "I don't look how you arrive out of it a winner -- there are a lot of land mines."

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