For a man who prides himself on his ability to spot a good deal, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump appears to have missed out on a huge one in Louisiana. Despite winning the most votes of any GOP candidate running in the Bayou State, the “author” of The Art of the Deal is likely to bring fewer Louisiana delegates to the Republican nominating convention in Ohio this summer than Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who finished a few percentage points behind him.
Trump’s immediate reaction to the news that he won’t have the majority of the Louisiana delegation at the convention has been predictable. On Sunday, he protested that the rules are unfair, and promised a lawsuit.
On Monday, Trump advisor Barry Bennett told MSNBC that the delegate allocation process was crooked.
“Well the problem we’re having here is that there was a secret meeting in Louisiana of the convention delegation, and apparently all of the invitations for our delegates must have gotten lost in the mail.”
Just to show you how unfair Republican primary politics can be, I won the State of Louisiana and get less delegates than Cruz-Lawsuit coming— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2016
Except, it’s really not clear that Trump is suffering from any actionable wrong. The real problem seems to be his campaign’s ignorance of how the political game of delegate allocation is played in the various states.
Louisiana allocates its at-large delegates proportionally to candidates that cross a 20 percent threshold. The delegates allocated at the congressional district level are distributed proportionally with no minimum vote threshold. Based on those rules, both Trump and Cruz received 18 delegates from the state. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has since withdrawn from the race, received five. But Rubio’s withdrawal released those delegate from their commitment to his candidacy. An additional five were uncommitted from the start, and thus free to vote for the candidate of their choice.
The Cruz campaign, recognizing the opportunity, mounted a successful effort to attract freed Rubio delegates and those who were never committed in the first place. The Trump campaign, evidently, did nothing.
What that boils down to is that, in the aftermath of Rubio’s withdrawal, there were 10 delegates in play in Louisiana, all free for the taking to a candidate who could, so to speak, close the deal.
What appears to have happened is that the Ted Cruz campaign recognized the opportunity and seized it, working to secure the support of the uncommitted delegates. Trump, the dealmaker, seems to have missed his chance.