Ginger Gibson is a campaign correspondent at Reuters.
BY GINGER GIBSON AND EMILY STEPHENSON
Mark Strang spends his days delivering farm equipment, listening to politics on the radio during cross-country drives. But in July, the 63-year-old could have an outsized voice in choosing the Republican nominee for president of the United States.
For the first time in 40 years, Republicans could arrive at their national convention in Cleveland without a nominee. If front-runner Donald Trump fails to lock up the nomination before then, as some pollsters are predicting, Strang will have a chance to make history.
Strang, from Illinois, is one of 2,472 delegates to the convention who will ultimately determine the party’s choice for the White House this November. In recent elections, the delegates have simply rubberstamped the presumptive nominee. But this year the convention could become a brutal fight in which every delegate vote will count.
Trump currently has 673 delegates after winning a string of nominating contests, but if he wants to avoid a floor fight at the convention he needs the magic number of 1,237. There is some doubt among election number crunchers that he can hit it.
And that’s when Strang will step into the spotlight. After filling roles in local Republican politics, Strang was selected by Illinois voters to serve as a delegate for Republican candidate U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas. He likes Cruz for his position on guns and immigration.
But if the convention becomes a fight because no candidate has the needed 1,237 delegates on the first round of voting, most of the delegates would eventually be released. States are still sorting through some rules governing how long delegates are bound to candidates. Strang said if he found himself a free agent, he would be open to switching his vote. (Graphic on how a contested convention works: tmsnrt.rs/1ROtOHw)
“I am going to be loyal to Ted Cruz, and I will stick with him until I see if there’s no hope. And if there’s no hope for Ted getting in, as I understand it I can pledge my votes to somebody else, and I would hope Ted would understand,” he said.
Interviews with Republican state party officials and some delegates who have already been selected reveal widespread soul-searching in anticipation of a potential fight. Officials and delegates described weighing their personal preference with the need to rally around a candidate going into the general election.
Party faithful are steeling themselves for a battle, not just for the nomination, but also for the party’s core values.
Establishment Republicans deeply opposed to Trump’s candidacy say he does not represent social and economic conservative values on healthcare, trade and the role of government in daily life.
Trump has built his campaign on anti-establishment rhetoric and promises to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants, impose a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and restore the country’s manufacturing base.
A contested convention would pose a major test for Trump’s campaign, which thus far has eschewed a traditional grassroots organization. His rivals, Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, are already trying to lobby delegates who might be open to changing sides once they are allowed to become free agents in the convention.
Exclusive: Super PACs backing Republican Cruz buy $2.4 million in ads in eight states
WASHINGTON | BY GINGER GIBSON
Making a final push toward the crucial Super Tuesday vote, Super PACs backing Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz bought $2.4 million in advertising supporting him in eight states, the groups told Reuters.
The ads purchased by Keep The Promise and its various offshoots include radio, television and online and are the latest effort by supporters of Cruz, a U.S. senator of Texas, to dislodge Donald Trump from the front-runner position in Tuesday’s critical 11-state Republican nominating contests. Should Trump sweep the contests, it could make stopping his path to the Republican nomination impossible.
The outside groups supporting the presidential candidates have already spent more than $5.5 million on advertising in Super Tuesday states, according to analysis by Reuters of the spending reports filed with Federal Election Commission as of Friday morning.
Super PACs are permitted to raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and corporations, but are prohibited from coordinating with the campaigns they are supporting. Most of the Super PACs have been used to fund expensive advertising budgets, while the campaigns themselves are responsible for staff and ground organization.
Cruz’s backers are hopeful the ads will pull him ahead of Trump. Cruz is locked in a tight battle in his home state of Texas, where 155 delegates to be sent to the Republican National Convention are at stake, out of almost 600 delegates total in the states voting on Super Tuesday.
“On Super Tuesday, voters can both send a message to Washington AND send a serious, proven conservative to the White House by voting for Cruz,” said Kellyanne Conway, president of Keep the Promise I, one of the groups backing Cruz.
The groups spent $393,500 on radio ads in seven states. They also purchased more than $990,0000 in television ads that will run in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma – the most crucial states for Cruz to narrow the margins with Trump.
The groups also spent $1 million on digital ads in eight states, including Minnesota, where so far none of the outside groups have bought advertising.
As Jeb Bush tries to amass a big enough fundraising haul to intimidate his GOP presidential competitors, his demands are rubbing some supporters the wrong way. Mid-level Republican donors are feeling priced out and ticked off, because Bush is asking for sizable sums without offering the expected courtesies in return. Several Republican insiders — none with ties to GOP 2016 hopefuls and some of whom have worked for the Bush family in previous campaigns — told International Business Times about incidents where once-reliable donors have begun to balk at requests from Bush’s team.
“Gov. Bush has not made a decision on if he will move forward with a potential campaign,” said Allie Brandenburger, spokesperson for Bush, when asked about donor unhappiness. “He is encouraged by the support he has received from a broad range of stakeholders across the country.”
Bush is still likely to announce impressive fundraising totals when his Right to Rise PAC reveals its first quarter fundraising totals — potentially hitting the target of raking in $100 million by March 31.
For Liz Mair, it took only a few months-old tweets to get her bounced from a presidential campaign. She insulted Iowa — the first-in-the-nation primary state that enjoys an outsized influence on politics — and that was enough to bring an end to her one-day term as an adviser to Gov. Scott Walker.
Mair is just one in a recent spate of campaign staffers, some of whom play no role in shaping the policy of the candidates who hire them, to find their social media activity at the center of a controversy, resulting in swift job loss.
In the “olden days,” the public would have likely never known (or cared) what some campaign staffer had to say about Iowa or abortion or gay rights. But with the rise of social media has come increased scrutiny of staffers, many whom have made their opinions known long before they ever started talking to the candidates who would ultimately hire them. A litmus test of sorts is now being applied to staff just the same as a candidate, and if they’re found out of step with their boss, critics and opponents are quick to point it out.
Prognosticators and political observers have long warned of the day when old Facebook and Twitter posts make it impossible to any suitable candidates for public office. But that fear has become a reality long before millennials have reached the age they’re eligible to run for office. And in a problem that transcends partisan lines, campaigns are now being forced to grapple with the public relations nightmare that ensues when a staffer becomes the center of attention for all the wrong reasons.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that while the Republicans have too many candidates for 2016, the Democrats have too few. If Hillary Clinton doesn’t run or her presidential campaign implodes, the thinking goes, her party has no bench, no backup, no Plan B.
The list of Democrats who have publicly suggested they might run is indeed skimpy. But it’s misleading to compare the depth of the two parties simply by counting the number of self-declared possible candidates. Every Republican who ever looked in the mirror and saw a president is hinting at a run, hoping to generate press, test the reaction and even begin to build momentum. For GOP-ers, there’s no downside to being talked about as a potential candidate. But not many A-list Democrats are mounting the same kind of PR campaign.
Several Democratic strategists, pollsters and party insiders interviewed for this article were eager to refute the idea that the party has no bench, and to suggest names of pols who could be viable 2016 candidates. But they didn’t want their own names attached to this article and refused to be quoted on the record. No one wants to be seen as encouraging someone to run against Clinton.
Just for the purposes of argument, here are some of the reasons Mitt Romney could succeed if he runs for president in 2016, as he is strongly hinting he will. He has name recognition. Having already been through a national campaign once — sorry, twice — he won’t be taken by surprise by the level of pressure and scrutiny. Even though he’ll be competing with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for donors, with his Wall Street background, he can surely scare up a few deep-pocketed supporters. And he made so many gaffes in the last campaign, the public may now shrug off any stumbles about binders full of women or his friendship with NASCAR owners.
Romney certainly appears to think he can win this time. The former Massachusetts governor sees a political space for himself to the right of Jeb Bush (on immigration and Common Core) but to the left of the crowded conservative field. He’s been meeting with potential donors and returning to the speaking circuit. He’s banking on the idea that the nation’s voters have buyer’s remorse — that they believe, as he does, that the country would’ve been better off if he had won.
But there’s a reason Romney didn’t win: He’s a weak candidate. After all, he didn’t lose to the 2008 version of Barack Obama, a charismatic powerhouse who had electrified voters with the possibility of hope and change. Romney is the guy who lost to 2012 Obama, when the unemployment rate was hovering around 8 percent and the president had disappointed his supporters on the left and been pummeled by years of attacks from the right.