President Trump’s reelection campaign is taking measures to ensure the president’s critics are frozen out of the nominating convention in Charlotte next year.
In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Trump campaign officials touted a months-long effort to install the president’s allies at the state-level positions charged with developing the rules that govern the nominating convention and delegate selection.
None of the challengers has a real shot at winning the nomination, but the Trump campaign wants to ensure that the August convention is a “four day advertisement for the president and not an internal debate among activists.”
“We don’t care at all about the lighting or tv camera angles at the convention in Charlotte,” said one senior campaign official. “We do care about who is seated in all of the chairs on the convention floor…we care about that because we care about ensuring a predetermined outcome at the convention because history tells us…that a properly executed convention is the single most important thing a campaign can do to put their candidate on the pathway to reelection.”
Several states have already canceled their Republican presidential primaries, although this is somewhat typical among political parties with an incumbent president up for reelection.
The campaign officials pointed to scores of other successes they’ve had at the local level, in which state parties have voted to allow the campaign to pick its own slate of delegates, to change the rules so delegates are bound to the state’s winner, or implemented new delegate threshold requirements to ensure a candidate receiving a small percentage of the vote does not receive outsized delegate representation at the convention.
One campaign official pointed to Massachusetts, Weld’s home state, as an example.
In prior elections, a candidate in Massachusetts who received 6 percent of the vote statewide could be represented by 10 of the 41 delegates.
In 2020, a candidate will have to win at least 20 percent of the vote to be represented at all, likely ensuring that all 41 delegates to the convention from Massachusetts are Trump supporters.
Those moves have attracted some criticism from Trump’s opponents, who say Trump and Republicans are trying to shut down a challenge to the president.
Campaign officials insist that it’s not done out of fear that the challengers could gain traction, but rather to ensure majority rule, as Trump has broad support among Republicans nationwide and is expected to coast to the nomination with a strong majority of support in states that do conduct primary elections.
“We don’t pay any mind to the guys trying to run in the primary,” a campaign official said. “If they paid any amount of attention to the rules that govern the delegates, they’d know the pathway has already been closed.”
And the Trump officials said the national campaign’s strong ties to the local party affiliates will bolster the president’s general election bid.
The campaign officials said they had created a “delegates and party organization” team committed solely to strengthening those ties, believing that prior presidents who had lost reelection bids did so in party because they lost connection to their activist base.
“This is about winning the general election … the rules of the party now reflect the will of the votes of the president’s party,” campaign official said. “This Is not done from a position of weakness. The president’s standing in the party in any poll is in the high 80s or low 90s. The rule changes reflect the strength of this standing.”
At the 2016 Republican National Convention, a small but vocal group of Republicans sought to sabotage the proceedings and replace Trump on the ticket. Their last-ditch effort fizzled and ultimately did not leave much of a mark on the convention.