Weekend open thread: Ted Cruz delegate domination edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Newly-disclosed details about the sex abuse charges filed against former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert caught my attention. As Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall explained here, “Without the unending hunt into Bill Clinton’s sex life, you never would have heard of Denny Hastert. It also seems highly unlikely he ever would have had to answer, even in this limited way, for his own past.” While the Monica Lewinsky scandal unfolded, I was covering Russian politics and had many Russian colleagues. They were astounded by the Republican effort to remove Clinton from office. I remember some joking, if only our president (the rarely-seen-in-public Boris Yeltsin) were healthy enough to have an affair.

The big Iowa politics news of the weekend came out of the GOP district conventions on Saturday. Repeating a storyline that has played out elsewhere, Ted Cruz’s campaign destroyed the competition with superior organizing in every part of the state. Cruz didn’t entirely shut out other candidates here the way he did in Colorado, but his supporters took eleven of the twelve Republican National Convention delegate slots. Although Donald Trump has belatedly started to build a serious RNC delegate strategy, his campaign’s efforts leading up to this weekend in Iowa were remarkably incompetent. Cruz’s team have been preparing for a prolonged delegate battle since last summer and have executed the strategy well lately.

Trump still hits the magic number of 1,237 delegates (an overall majority) in most of the scenarios guest author fladem played out this week (most recently updated here). Sam Wang showed at the Princeton Election Consortium that current polling still indicates Trump could clinch the nomination on June 7–though Cruz has been over performing his poll numbers lately, which increases the chance of a brokered convention. The Cruz sweep of Colorado delegates and near-sweep of Iowa’s GOP district conventions are a reminder that the first ballot at the RNC in Cleveland may be Trump’s only chance for the nomination.

More links and commentary about the district conventions are after the jump.

From the Des Moines Register’s group report by Jason Noble, William Petroski, Brianne Pfannenstiel, and Andy Davis:

The Cruz campaign demonstrated a strong organization from the outset of Saturday’s contests, peppering convention attendees with pro-Cruz text messages throughout the day and handing out half-sheets of paper at all four convention sites identifying slates of Cruz-aligned candidates for national convention delegate, national convention alternate and the nominating committee. […]

Of the 12 candidates identified on the pro-Cruz slates, nine punched tickets to Cleveland. Two more weren’t identified by the campaign but have said they intend to back the Texas senator at the national convention.

The 12th delegate is Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a former Branstad administration official and former congressional candidate, who declined to commit to a candidate on Saturday.

Brent Griffiths reported from the IA-02 convention for the Daily Iowan:

At the Second District Convention, Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign had one staffer who declined to name prefered delegates. Trump had a mostly volunteer run effort that fed off word of mouth and a hand scrawled list of names that appeared like a homework assignment rushed before class.

Click here to see Griffiths’ picture of the hand-written Trump list, which included at least one Cruz supporter (name misspelled).

The IA-01 delegates were State Representative Sandy Salmon, David Chung, and Ben Barringer.

The IA-02 delegates were Miller-Meeks, State Representative Greg Heartsill, and Amy Christen, who wasn’t on the original Cruz list but said she will support Cruz. She beat someone on the Cruz slate by only one vote.

The IA-03 delegates were former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, State Senator Jake Chapman, and former State Central Committee member Wes Enos. He served as political director for Mike Huckabee’s 2008 caucus campaign and was on Marco Rubio’s Iowa leadership team before this year’s caucuses. Giving one of the RNC delegate slots to a former Rubio backer was a smart move by the Cruz team. In Cleveland Enos may be able to help bring around other delegates who originally were pledged for the Florida senator.

The IA-04 delegates were State Senator Jason Schultz, Chuck Petterson, and Adam Motzko.

But wait, there’s more! Noble pointed out, “In addition to grabbing 11 of 12 nat’l convention spots today in Iowa, Cruz got 5 of 8 spots on cmte selecting 15-member at large delegation.”

Trump’s senior Iowa staffer Tana Goertz, a former contestant on The Apprentice, wins the prize for most ludicrous spin of the day: “Today was a Ted Cruz fail. He thought he’d sweep up all of the Iowa delegates & that didn’t happen.”

After attending the IA-03 convention, Pat Rynard wrote a must-read takedown of the Trump campaign. Excerpt:

Trump’s delegate strategy was beset by incompetence and confusion. Their initial list of preferred delegates were comprised of Justin Luettjohan, Mary Whisenand and State Senator Julian Garrett. Only Luettjohan told Starting Line that he was solidly with Trump and would support him on the second ballot and beyond. He backed Ben Carson in the caucus. Garrett revealed that he had caucused for Trump (he had not previously endorsed publicly), but he said he was still undecided on whether he’d back Trump or Cruz on a second ballot.

Whisenand’s inclusion on the Trump list was peculiar. She backed Chris Christie in the caucus and is a longtime party activist that seemed unlikely to ever support Trump. She told everyone that asked her beforehand that she was undecided and wouldn’t commit to any candidate at this stage. She wasn’t even aware that she would be on the Trump slate until she got to the convention. The Trump leaders struck her name from the list late in the morning, replacing it with State Senator Brad Zaun, who endorsed Trump in the caucus.

How was Zaun–Trump’s only public endorser in the Iowa legislature before the caucuses–not included on his initial slate? Rynard offers a clue:

But Zaun didn’t even explicitly commit to backing Trump on a second ballot. In his speech to the convention, Zaun simply said he’d back whoever was “right” at the national convention and not the establishment’s choice. […]

The trio for Cruz handily won their election for national delegate. Schultz and Chapman won on the first ballot (see photo below). Enos got in as the third Cruz delegate on the fourth ballot. Luettjohan, the only person on the official Trump slate that was actually solidly with Trump, didn’t even make it into the top 10 from the first ballot (which makes it seem like the Trump leaders didn’t properly inform their supporters of who to back).

The only good news for Trump in Iowa yesterday was state GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann telling delegates in IA-03 he would oppose any effort to give the nomination to someone who didn’t run for president: “We don’t need somebody being parachuted in to protect us from ourselves. We have three great candidates.” Kaufmann added that if that scenario unfolds at the RNC, “I will not only vote no, I’ll vote hell no!”

A funny side note to yesterday’s proceedings: at the second and third district conventions, motions seeking to force RNC delegate hopefuls to state a preference for a presidential candidate failed. But in IA-01, delegates approved a motion stating that only those present to speak and willing to declare a presidential preference would be eligible for an RNC slot. That disqualified Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, who sought an RNC delegate slot but for some reason chose to spend part of his day with IA-04 delegates in Fort Dodge. (UPDATE: See clarification below.)

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. This past week, several major Iowa newspapers published an op-ed column by Pate that misrepresented the felon voting rights case before the Iowa Supreme Court. Bleeding Heartland will analyze that column in a future post. The saddest revelation: Iowa’s chief elections officer views voting as a “privilege,” not the fundamental constitutional right recognized by numerous federal and state court decisions.

Speaking to fourth district delegates on Saturday, Pate further distorted the Griffin case, saying “child molesters, rapists and murderers” are trying to get the right to vote from prison, that liberals want “unelected judges” to let criminals vote, with the goal of letting “child molesters and rapists and murderers” play “a large role in electing Iowa politicians,” the Des Moines Register’s Petroski reported. Reality: the vast majority of Iowans who may regain the right to vote, depending on how the Supreme Court defines “infamous crimes,” were convicted of nonviolent felonies.

UPDATE: Pate disputed Noble’s report, saying on his Twitter feed, “I opted not to run [for RNC delegate] & visited #IA01, #IA03 & #IA04 to promote #HonoraVet & discuss felon voting.” Noble responded that Pate had declared his candidacy in an e-mail, was nominated at the first district convention, and had his name placed on ballot before it was “removed when he wasnt there to give speech.” Pate maintains he “didn’t ask anyone to nominate me” and “decided on Friday not to run & instead to visit other conventions.”

Earlier in the day at the IA-04 convention, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey endorsed Representative Steve King, who is facing a primary challenge from State Senator Rick Bertrand. Bleeding Heartland covered that story here.

District convention delegates also elected most members of the Iowa GOP’s State Central Committee (our state’s RNC committeeman and committeewoman have the remaining two spots on that committee). The Des Moines Register’s Noble posted this chart showing new members in yellow:

Iowa GOP State Central Committee photo Cfn4NgeVIAA-emr_zpsiiouqxhm.jpg

If David Hartsuch’s name rings a bell, it’s because he represented an Iowa Senate district in the Quad Cities area for a term and was the GOP challenger to Representative Bruce Braley in IA-01 in 2008. Having defeated pro-choice Republican Maggie Tinsman in the 2006 state Senate primary, Hartsuch lost the 2010 primary in that district to Roby Smith.

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