Donald Trump is like the kid in class who never does the reading, does his homework on the bus and bluffs his way through when the teacher calls on him and he doesn’t actually know the answer.
Ted Cruz, by contrast, always does the reading, always does his homework (including the extra credit questions) and not only knows the answer when the teacher calls on him, but interrupts to finish her question for her.
The first is likely to be more popular than the other, particularly among the kids in the class who don’t much like to do homework either and dislike being shown up by that Cruz kid in the front row all the time. The other, though, knows what he wants, knows exactly who he has to please to get it and doesn’t care who he annoys while he’s going about it.
In Colorado on Friday, Ted Cruz showed Trump why it is that at the end of the day, the first kid winds up as a minor character in a Bruce Springsteen song while the other buys a mansion in the Caribbean that he rents out to Springsteen six months a year.
While Trump was on Twitter alternately discussing NATO and Jennifer Hudson, Cruz had his people on the ground in Colorado harvesting delegates that the Trump team had made little effort to secure. Because of its strange primary system, Colorado awards its congressional district-level delegates to the Republican nominating convention at district conventions and its at-large delegates at a state convention, which will take place tomorrow.
As of late Friday afternoon, the Cruz team had engineered the selection of their candidate’s supporters as delegates in all 15 of the delegate slots available in the state’s congressional districts where the contest had been decided. Trump, by contrast, appeared not to have won so much as an alternate delegate.
Trump this week made a great production of hiring a high profile delegate-wrangler in Paul Manafort, but it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that this is the equivalent of doing his homework on the bus. The Cruz team has, from day one, laid the groundwork for this sort of delegate-by-delegate battle, and not only does he have people in place in key primary states, but those people know what they’re doing.
Manafort, whose years of experience no doubt raise the political IQ of Team Trump dramatically, is still starting in an organizational hole that will be tough to dig out of.
Again, Colorado provides another example. Tomorrow, the statewide convention will select another 13 delegates. Ted Cruz will be in Colorado Springs personally to make his case. Trump, by comparison, has nothing on his schedule.
With his huge lead in delegates, Trump is still overwhelmingly likely to make it to the convention in Cleveland with a lead over Cruz, but his chance for a first-ballot majority appears to be slipping away. And if the convention goes to multiple ballots, where delegates are freed to vote however they please, it’s hard to see a scenario in which Trump is able to out-organize Cruz, because it pays to do your homework.