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Will delegate details undo Trump’s nomination hopes?

Sen. Ted Cruz picked up delegates in Colorado, once again challenging Donald Trump’s hopes for an uncontested convention. Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join Judy Woodruff to discuss how each candidate is following a different path to the convention and the rivalry between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton ahead of the New York primary.

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  • Judy Woodruff

    : With eight days to go until vote-rich New York weighs in on the high-stakes contests for the Republican and Democratic nominations for president, candidates stepped up their criticisms of each other and made their best cases for more delegates today, the perfect moment to turn to Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR, and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    And we welcome both of you.

    So, as we said, no voting this week, but delegate selection goes on. And we’re hearing a lot of complaining, Amy, from Donald Trump. We just heard him saying the process is crooked.

    What is Ted Cruz doing Donald Trump isn’t?

  • Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:

    Right.

    There is a process, and it involves rules, and Donald Trump seems to have forgotten that rules actually have been set a long time ago. But here’s the two. There are two ways to win the nomination as a Republican. You either come into the convention with 1,237 delegates — that is where Trump is ahead and where he could — there is still a conceivable path for him to do this by the time we hit June, tough, but conceivable.

    Then there is winning the convention at the floor, winning by what we’re calling a contested convention. That’s where Ted Cruz is doing better. What Ted Cruz is doing is, he understands the rules and the nuances of how the game is played. And that is, when you win a state, you win more than just the votes, you win actual human beings, delegates that go and vote on the floor.

    They are bound to voting for who won that state on the first round. But once you get into the second and third rounds of voting, most of them are free agents. Ted Cruz is making sure as many of his supporters are getting picked at these places like Colorado and in some other states, North Dakota, et cetera, to make sure, even in South Carolina, as he mentioned, that when we get to that second and third ballot, they’re going to vote for Ted Cruz and not Donald Trump.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Well, Tamara, if it’s a process that’s been written about, it’s been in the books for some time, why has it taken so long for Donald Trump to focus on it?

  • Tamara Keith, NPR:

    Because he was focused on winning.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff

    : But this is all about winning.

  • Tamara Keith

    : Yes, yes, this is a different kind of winning and this is sort of the more complicated, procedural, rule-type winning.

    And, you know, at this convention in Colorado, Donald Trump showed up with a gloss glossy flyer that said here’s my slate of delegates, vote for them. It included a number of people that were not on the ballot for people to vote.

    It was — my colleagues showed me a copy of his slate that he had taken notes on, and three-quarters of the people on there, you couldn’t vote for them in the way that Trump’s people said to vote for them.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Amy, is it too late for Trump to catch up? He has hired this veteran political operative, Paul Manafort. He’s done some interviews. We have seen him out over the weekend. He is saying, oh, yes, we are going to catch up. Is it — can they catch up?

  • Amy Walter

    : They may be able to, but it’s really a question about, you know, they have already lost in so many of these places and it’s hard to catch up.

    What we’re hearing in state after state is that the Cruz campaign has been there for months, they have been doing the groundwork, and they have the people there who are able to go and get on these ballots or make sure that they pick the right people to get on these ballots.

    The one thing I want to mention is, here’s the difficult part about all this as we’re predicting and projecting what’s going to happen; 2,500 people or so are delegates. They’re all individual human beings that all are going to feel incredible pressure. There are rules that they have to follow, but once the ballot opens, once the voting opens and they’re no longer bound by the rules, they’re going to get pressures from the candidates.

    They’re going to get pressures from their families, from their colleagues, and these people have to go home after this convention and go explain their vote to their friends and family, and that is going to be something none of us can predict.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : But, clearly, Tamara, it sounds like Donald Trump’s best hope is to get to 1,237 before they go to Cleveland.

  • Tamara Keith

    : Absolutely. Absolutely.

    That is — by far, if he can have this done in one ballot, that is a much better solution.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : And that’s mathematically possible.

  • Tamara Keith

    : It is mathematically possible. By our calculation at this point, he would need to get about 58 percent of the remaining unbound delegates. There are bound delegates and there are unbound delegates, and so it’s somewhere between 58 percent and 70 percent of the remaining delegates that he needs to get.

    It’s possible. There are a bunch of winner-take-all contests. But here’s an indication of the challenge that he faces. In New York, his children cannot vote for him because they missed the deadline to register as Republicans to vote.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Which was last fall, or was it more recently?

  • Tamara Keith

    : No, it like three weeks ago, I think.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Oh, OK.

  • Tamara Keith

    : So there are all kinds of small details, and Trump has been working on the bigger stuff, on the big message, on getting this tidal wave of support.

    And that is different from what happens at a convention, which is why Donald Trump really wants to win before a convention.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : So, Amy, just quickly on this, when he says it’s crooked and his delegate hunter says they’re using gestapo-like tactics, is there anything…

  • Amy Walter

    : There’s one thing that we have seen about this.

    Look, this is still is something of a Wild West. There are not really any rules about what you can and can’t do to woo a delegate. Theoretically, you can’t give them actual cash, right? There are bribery statutes. But some people are arguing, Well, as long as they’re not an elected official, I don’t know if it’s considered a bribe to give them, I don’t know, maybe a trip on a nice airplane with the name Trump on the side of it.

  • Tamara Keith

    : Gold-plated seat belts on that plane?

  • Amy Walter

    : Maybe.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Well, let’s quickly move over to the Democrats,, because, Tamara, yes, does — the words of war between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders does seem to have cooled down a little bit. But, as we heard, they’re still taking shots at…

  • Tamara Keith

    : I don’t know if it really cooled down or not.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Maybe it hasn’t.

  • Tamara Keith

    : Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : But where does it stand? She’s ahead in the polls in New York, but he is saying, I have won the last umpteen contests here.

  • Tamara Keith

    : Right. And he has won the last umpteen contests, and he has momentum.

    One interesting thing, though, about that momentum is, in Wyoming, which held its caucuses over the weekend, he won, and he won fairly significantly, but, in the end, the delegates were a tie. They both got seven delegates, seven pledged delegates, which means that he didn’t eat into her delegate lead any at all.

    And he still needs to win about 57.5 percent of the remaining delegates. Totally possible. Not easy.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : And here, quickly, Amy, delegates’ numbers, very different from the Republicans, where you have got the so-called superdelegates, and she, Hillary Clinton, way ahead…

  • Amy Walter

    : Well, way ahead with the superdelegates, but also she is significantly ahead with delegates, even further ahead today than Barack Obama was ahead of her at this point in 2008.

    So, her argument is, what she would like to see is, I want to switch now, this race is basically mathematically over, I want to get to the general election. But you know what? Primary voters aren’t there yet. They want to see this contest continue. And she has got to be able to do. She has got to be able to show graciousness as the front-runner and the likely nominee, while also being able to be a general election candidate.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : And pivot to Donald Trump, which she’s started to do. She is running ads on him.

    At the same time, she’s having to beat off the criticisms from Sanders.

  • Tamara Keith

    : Yes, and what she said today is that she can walk and chew gum at the same time. She can fight Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump at the same time.

    Sanders is out with an ad about fracking, which is an issue that is going to be more of an issue in Pennsylvania. And he’s getting that out there, I think, in hopes of it coming up at the debate.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Well, there is so much. And we love having both of you.

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you both.

  • Tamara Keith

    : You’re welcome.

  • Amy Walter

    : Thank you, Judy.

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