In the last few weeks, Donald Trump has blasted efforts by Ted Cruz to win delegates via the delegate nominating processes around the country. Essentially, Cruz’s strategy has been to win delegates regardless of general voting results. Trump, who is far less organized, has criticized these outcomes.
For instance, Cruz recently expended substantial efforts in Louisiana, Colorado and Wyoming to pick off supportive delegates. He has been extremely successful in doing so and his success has drawn Trump’s ire.
After Colorado picked all 34 of its GOP national delegates for Cruz, Trump claimed “[i]t's a crooked deal. ... It's a rigged system.”
Last August, the Colorado Republican Party changed its national delegate selection system so they are chosen by delegates elected in state precinct caucuses. About 60,000 Colorado Republicans turned out to vote in those caucuses and the delegates they chose eventually picked Colorado’s national delegates to this summer’s GOP convention in Cleveland.
Trump also blasted a similar process in Wyoming which yielded 24 of 29 delegates for Cruz: “I don't want to waste millions of dollars going out to Wyoming many months before to wine and dine and to essentially pay off all these people because a lot of it's a pay-off," Trump said. "You understand that, they treat 'em, they take 'em to dinner, they get 'em hotels. I mean the whole thing's a big pay-off, has nothing to do with democracy.”
How does Idaho’s GOP national delegate nominating process compare? Might Idaho soon be in Trump’s crosshair?
First, Idaho’s Republican Party, unlike Colorado or Wyoming, did actually hold a primary on March 8. But, like Wyoming and Colorado, that primary did not directly choose Republican delegates.
The document governing the actual procedure followed by the Idaho GOP is the Idaho Republican Party State Rules. You can view a copyhere.
First, delegates are allocated based upon the vote in the primary. If any presidential candidate obtains more than 50% of the primary vote, they are entitled to all of Idaho’s national GOP delegates. If no candidate exceeds the 50% threshold, then any candidate who exceeds 20% of the vote is allocated delegates proportionally with the other candidates who exceed the 20% number.
This year, Cruz took 45.43% of the primary vote in Idaho, falling short of the 50% threshold. Trump was the only other candidate who exceeded the 20% threshold, obtaining 28.12% of the Idaho vote. Those are the only two campaigns entitled to Idaho GOP delegates.
Overall, Idaho has 32 GOP delegates and the same number of alternate slots. Based on that allocation, Cruz is entitled to 20 Idaho Republican national delegates and the same number of alternates while Trump is allocated 12 of the delegates plus an equivalent number of alternates.
Under the Idaho GOP rules, both the Trump and Cruz campaigns are able to submit to the Idaho GOP chair delegate names equal to 80% of their allocated delegates. Those on the candidate list get to go to Cleveland on behalf of their respective candidate.
For the Cruz campaign, that means it can pick 16 people for national delegates and the same number as alternates. For Trump that is 10 names for delegates and 10 for alternates, chosen by the campaign.
Each campaign is supposed to submit a list of delegates and alternates in a preference order and, under the state party rules, they are to be chosen. If a campaign fails to provide a full list, the state convention delegates fill the slots.
It is worth watching to see if the Trump campaign submits a full list for Idaho. It has struggled around the country to perform such organizational tasks and its Idaho presence is fairly minimal.
At the state convention, the other slots – the 20% not selected by the respective campaigns – are to be chosen by the Nominating Committee of the State Republican Convention. I suspect the Cruz campaign will attempt to fill those slots with people sympathetic to Cruz, even in those slots allocated to Trump. That is all of two delegate slots and two alternates out of Trump’s 12 delegate slots.
But, there is a significant limiting factor in Idaho besides the ability of the campaigns to directly choose the lion’s share of their delegates.
Idaho’s GOP Rules provide: “On the first ballot taken at the Republican National Convention, the delegates and alternates must vote for the candidate who proposed them on their list or the candidate to whom they are pledged if selected by the Nominating Committee.”
Thus, any “Trump slots”, filled by Cruz supporters would have to actually vote for Trump in Cleveland on the first round. But, after that vote, they would be free to choose anyone they prefer, presumably Cruz, if the national convention goes beyond one ballot.