Ted Cruz Set To Challenge Donald Trump In Texas

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Ted Cruz isn’t giving up.

While Donald Trump dispatches three advisers to Texas’s convention in Dallas this week and makes a pitch for party unity, his team will be running up against a Cruz operation that is still maneuvering to stuff the state’s delegation with allies the senator could call on to snub the presumptive nominee.

“We have a busy weekend planned,” said a source familiar with the Cruz campaign’s plans.

Cruz is scheduled to deliver an address at the Texas convention after a week of hinting he could jump back into the presidential contest and urging activists to thwart the New Yorker’s takeover of the GOP’s policy platform. And despite dropping out of the race more than a week ago, the vanquished presidential contender has deployed at least one paid adviser to the Texas Republican convention – Tyler Norris, his state director. (Trump has three advisers: state director Joshua Jones, deputy director Eric Mahroum and Houston-area director Kayla Hensley.)

It’s not just Texas where Cruz is still playing.

The senator’s team remains active in several of the other eight state conventions selecting delegates this week – from Nebraska to Oklahoma to Nevada. Those conventions, along with party meetings in Arkansas, Florida and Wisconsin, will be selecting 389 national delegates, nearly a sixth of the entire convention.

If Cruz were still working to send the nomination fight to a contested convention, this weekend’s delegate hunt would have been the main event – the largest single delegate selection weekend of the primary season. Now, it’s become a display of Cruz’s last hardcore bastions of support and a forum for Trump to appeal for unity.

Indeed, Trump’s campaign appears to be making moves to heal a fractured party ahead of a challenging general election campaign – sending emissaries to build relationships on Capitol Hill, reassessing policy proposals, and setting up meetings between the candidate and senior party leaders, including Wednesday’s sit-down with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“The Trump campaign – they have to go unite Republicans. They’ve got to do that,” said Austin Barbour, a GOP leader in Mississippi, which is holding a convention this weekend. “I think he needs to go talk to the people who are Cruz people, who are Bush people. Donald Trump’s a bigtime underdog in this race. They need to tie down Republican votes and this weekend’s a good start for them.”

Ed Brookover, one of Trump’s top delegate advisers, is expected to attend the Mississippi gathering. Another top Trump adviser, Alan Cobb, will have a presence at Kansas’s state convention on Saturday – and although the state went strongly for Cruz, its delegation to Cleveland is now likely to feature a more neutral group that included Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a prominent Trump supporter.

Many state GOP leaders seem eager for that reunification. Oklahoma GOP chairwoman Pam Pollard noted that her state’s convention theme is “United We Stand.” Cruz may have beaten Trump in the state in March, but Pollard says she’s all in for the mogul now. In fact, Pollard said she volunteered in March to be a pro-Trump delegate to Cleveland to underscore the important of reuniting. “I wanted to send a clear signal back in March that we support all of our candidates,” she said. “No matter who our nominee is, we would support them.”

But Oklahoma’s convention gala on Friday night will also feature a keynote address from Cruz’s former running mate, Carly Fiorina. Fiorina was enlisted to speak long before Cruz selected her to be his vice presidential candidate, but her remarks haven’t been vetted yet.

“I have not spoken to Mrs. Fiorina about what her message will be,” said Pollard. “She knows the theme of our convention and I know, number one, that she’s a professional, she’s a lady and she is out for the best interests of the party.

In Nebraska, where Trump – running unopposed this week – still lost 40 percent of the vote, Cruz’s campaign chairman, state Sen. John Murante, told POLITICO that there’s still an element of hardcore support for Cruz among the state’s GOP leaders.

“There will be a time to unite behind the Republican nominee. The general election is light years away,” he said, noting that he may not decide whether to support Trump until October.

It’s unclear who will represent the Trump campaign in Nebraska. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the head of the Republican Governors Association, is the keynote speaker.

Jeff Essmann, chairman of the Montana GOP, said the lack of a nomination fight has sapped enthusiasm at his state’s convention this weekend. He said he had spoken to Cruz twice about appearing as a keynote speaker Friday night, but their talks have gone “radio silent” since Cruz quit the race after losing Indiana last week. He says he’s still appealing to the Trump campaign for a surrogate to address the convention, and he noted that Trump is sending three staffers to build relationships with Montana’s GOP leaders. Essmann said it would be valuable for Trump himself to reach out to the local party members, who aren’t as hostile to him as Washington Republicans, he said.

“Every state party in the nation would benefit from a Republican base that’s excited and activated. There is a role for him to play in helping to get the base excited and activated,” Essman said. “I think that’s still quite possible. I know there’s some heartburn in certain circles in DC about him, but I sense a considerably less of that at the local level.”

But it’s Texas where Trump is putting the most on the line. Steve Munisteri, the former chairman of the Texas GOP, said Cruz’s allies have not overtly lobbied for delegates yet – they’re not distributing slates of favored candidates. Rather, they appear to be angling to install about two dozen of the senator’s top backers into the 155-member delegation, while letting the rest play out organically – knowing that most Texas convention delegates are his natural allies anyway.

Trump’s advisers, Munisteri added, have been low-key so far.

“They’re there with olive branches,” he said. “Cruz has tremendous support in the state, so they’re not there to rub anybody’s noses in it. They’re there to introduce themselves and start working on party unity issues. They would like to get some of their delegates.”

Munisteri noted that the lack of drama in the presidential nominating fight appears to have sapped enthusiasm for the convention altogether. Thousands of prospective state delegates have called to say they’re skipping the event.

(via: Politico)

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