Surprise: Donald Trump wants to make up his own delegate-selection rules

by Ken Feltman

Is Donald Trump being “cheated” –  as he claims – by the “unfair” rules of the Republican Party? Five Tweets posted late yesterday by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight put it this way:

  1. Thing is, Trump has exploited oddities of the Republican nomination rules more than he’s been exploited by them.
  2. It’s hard to be a consensus candidate – ask Marco Rubio – but the spirit of the GOP rules are supposed to encourage consensus.
  3. And in spirit, the rules are supposed to discourage factional, media-driven candidates like Trump who alienate half their party’s voters.
  4. But the *letter* of GOP’s rules are haphazardly written, such that Trump might get 51% of the delegates with only 35-40% of the vote.
  5. By contrast, if GOP nomination were contested under Democratic rules – proportional, with many super delegates – Trump would be toast.

Silver is one of the best data analysts to come along since Robert Teeter (New York Times  and Washington Post) with whom some of us were privileged to work years ago. I introduced Teeter to a group of Fortune 500 CEOs in the late 1970s by saying, “Bob Teeter knows everything we need to know at the time we need to know it.” After Teeter spoke, Joe Coors asked me to introduce him to Teeter. A few years later, Coors called to thank me and commented that Teeter could “see around corners” better than anyone he had ever known.

Silver has a very different style and uses today’s media to deliver his messages. But Silver has the same relentless, fact-based habits that made Teeter so successful. These habits drive some people crazy, especially people who “wing-it” through political campaigns, business decisions or life.

My comments from earlier this morning about Donald Trump and the Republican delegate selection rules reflect my conclusion that Trump is using gamesmanship to try to appeal to voters and potential GOP delegates – and is trying to salvage a campaign that was more fluff than stuff. As Gertrude Stein put it: “There’s no there there.”

Clearly, either Donald Trump did not understand the rules of the GOP nominating process – or believed that if he fell just short of the number of delegates required to secure the nomination, he could protest the process successfully.

Cruz understands the process – as does Kasich. The candidates who have dropped out – with the possible exception of Carson – also understood the rules.

The Republican rules are fairer to challengers than the Democratic rules, which provide for “super delegates” appointed by the party leadership and coming from the party elites (originally designed to prevent the nomination of “another McGovern”).

The Democrats’ super delegates were one of two reasons Trump did not run as a Democrat. The other is Hillary Clinton. Trump did not think he could beat her for the Democratic nomination but could win the general election.

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About Radnor Reports

Ken Feltman is past-president of the International Association of Political Consultants and the American League of Lobbyists. He is retired chairman of Radnor Inc., an international political consulting and government relations firm in Washington, D.C. Feltman founded the U.S. and European Conflict Indexes in 1988. The indexes have predicted the winner of every U.S. presidential election beginning in 1988, plus the outcome of several European elections. In May of 2010, the Conflict Index was used by university students in Egypt. The Index predicted the fall of the Mubarak government within the next year.
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