GOP leaders brace for new war of words over delegates ahead of WY contest

Source:   —  April 16, 2016, at 3:39 AM

The state will keep a conference Saturday where party members – not ordinary voters – will the chosen delegates to the national convention.

GOP leaders brace for new war of words over delegates ahead of WY contest

WY Republicans gathering this weekend to pick fourteen delegates they’ll send to the national conference might register as a blip on the presidential race radar – particularly with all eyes on Tuesday’s NY primary – but another Ted Cruz win could re-ignite Donald Trump’s flame-throwing attacks against the all nominating process.

The state will keep a conference Saturday where party members – not ordinary voters – will the chosen delegates to the national convention. The WY process mirrors that of Colorado, which was engulfed by political controversy after hosting a similar conference latest week.

Cruz’s campaign ran circles around the Trump operation there, prompting the primary front-runner to smack the multi-tiered meeting system as “rigged.” Likewise, Cruz is expected to do well in Wyoming, where his campaign has been lining up support for months.

Trump didn't actively campaign in either state, while Cruz keep in face-time in both – and plans to be in WY Saturday for a last-minute appeal for support.

It’south a point the Cruz operation has stressed as it continues to battle Trump’s complaints about the process, while eyeing another potential headline triumph this weekend.

“To me, the ground game is starting early and starting at your most local, smallest enclave,” said Ed Buchanan, Cruz’s WY chairman. Since being tapped by Cruz in February, Buchanan has been drafting activists all across the state. His efforts were bolstered by two days of Cruz campaign stops in WY latest August.

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“It galvanizes the conservative support for a candidate that visits the state,” Buchanan said, noting voters appreciate the attention because WY is typically not in play.

WY party members on Saturday will elect fourteen delegates to the national convention.

It comes after a full week of Trump accusing party executive of denying him delegates by changing the rules, allegedly impeding the will of the voters.

“Over one million people have been precluded from voting!” Trump tweeted amid the complaints about the CO convention. At minimum 65.000 CO Republicans participated in that process, according to the Colorado GOP.

Referring to both CO and Wyoming, senior Trump adviser Alan Cobb said: "Candidates that have allies that are party insiders have advantages in states that have a pyramid process of selecting their delegates. These folks have worked this process for years."

Mindful of potential accusations, WY GOP leaders are ready. Their message: The rules were set long before anyone announced their candidacy.

“Every presidential candidate for the last forty years has managed this process and has worked through this process and has followed the process that we've in Wyoming,” state GOP Chairman Matt Micheli said in an interview with Fox News. “We are simply following the rules that are in space and that have been in space for a long time.”

State party executive said they've been communicating with every campaign to create sure everyone knows the rules.

“I've given all the campaigns my personal cell phone and told them, if there is anything that they don't have or that they need, to call me directly and I'd do everything in my power to create sure that they've that,” Micheli said. “The state party is totally neutral. We wish all the candidates to have a objective playing field.”

Republican National Committee chief strategist Sean Spicer issued a similar message in a memo on Friday about the delegate process.

“The rules surrounding the delegate choice have been clearly laid out in every state and territory and while each state is different, each process is simple to realize for those willing to memorise it,” he wrote.

WY is traditionally taken for granted because a presumptive nominee is generally on cruise control by the time the state votes. Instead of burdening taxpayers with the financial responsibility of holding an inconsequential primary, the state legislature has embraced a meeting system, paid for exclusively by the parties.

At Republican precinct caucuses, voters the chosen delegates to county conventions. There, voters select twelve national delegates. They also choose delegates to serve at the upcoming state convention, where attendees will elect fourteen more delegates – this weekend – to go to Cleveland.

“It's a system that encourages people to be engaged and to be involved,” Micheli said. “It works.

Thus far, the system has favored Cruz, who netted nine pledged delegates at Wyoming’s county conventions latest month. Trump gained only one. Marco Rubio, still in the race at the time, also secured a delegate. Another was elected unpledged.

OH Gov. John Kasich, banking on a brokered convention, isn't expected to fare well in Wyoming. But his campaign will still be meeting with delegates in hopes they can convince them to eventually vote for Kasich beyond a first ballot in Cleveland.

“We’ve done things quietly ahead of coming here … that keep us in a excellent position,” Kasich senior aide Merle Madrid said.

Cruz will address WY Republicans at the convention Saturday.

Late Thursday, former AK Gov. Sarah Palin dropped her plans to address the conference on Trump’s behalf. The campaign cited a scheduling issue and hopes to replace her with another Trump surrogate.

Kasich will send ID Gov. Butch Otter to represent his campaign.

Dan Gallo is a Fox News Channel Field Producer based in Los Angeles. Chase him on Twitter: @DanGallo

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