Augusta - Maybe it was a little too hasty to expect the war between Donald Trump’s allies and Ted Cruz’s forces over delegates to the Cleveland convention to be a thing of the past.
As activists at the Georgia Republican Convention prepare to select the 31 remaining statewide delegates they’ll send to the national meeting, some of the Texas senator’s supporters are preparing for a drawn-out fight.
They’ve drawn up a slate of their own delegates and could challenge the Trump-friendly list of delegates that’s set to be decided later Saturday, according to multiple Republican convention-goers.
While their goal is not to block Trump from the nomination – that’s a foregone conclusion – organizers say they hope to land enough Cruz supporters in Georgia’s delegation to influence the party’s platform this year and the nomination rules for the 2020 race, which will be decided at July’s meeting.
Brant Frost V, a Cruz supporter and one of the effort's organizers, pitched it not as a battle between two rival candidates but as a struggle between "the grass-roots and the establishment." He said his slate includes Trump supporters and is meant to challenge Georgia GOP chair John Padgett.
"His slate was approved in secret by one man," said Frost. "You've got John Padgett's buddies and not an independent one. The difference could not be more stark."
Trump’s supporters are well aware of the potential challenge, and are rallying their own defense. His national delegate guru is on hand, as are some of his campaign’s advisers. Several elder statesmen, meanwhile, are pushing for a “unity” ticket to band the warring factions together.
As the two-day convention kicked off Friday, Cruz and Trump supporters held dueling conference calls and caucus meetings to hash out strategy and count potential votes.
Cruz’s allies have already outmaneuvered Trump’s campaign in Georgia by winning a majority of the 42 delegates up for grabs at district conventions in April. But that was in the throes of the primary, when both Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich were still in the race. Both abandoned the contest after a string of defeats, and Trump last month clinched the 1,237 delegates he needs to lock up the nomination.
Still, Cruz’s forces have fought on in other states, aiming to secure spots on committees that decide the convention rules and party platform that could help a potential Cruz run in 2020 by, say, restricting Republican primaries to only registered GOP voters. (Trump's campaign relied on independents and newcomers to lock up the nomination.)