As pundits and political prophets focus on deciphering the vagaries of “delegate math” leading into July’s Republican convention in Cleveland—how many delegates do you need, how do you secure them, how do you keep them—stories abound about how the party establishment is plotting to deny Donald Trump the nomination.
The prevailing theory is that the grand poobahs of party discipline will pursue a three-step strategy. First, they’ll use Ted Cruz as their Trojan horse to ensure Trump falls short of the 1,237 delegates needed on the first ballot. Then they’ll pivot to stop Cruz from emerging on the second and third ballots. And finally, they’ll implant their own choice as the consensus unifier—John Kasich or Marco Rubio or Scott Walker, now that Paul Ryan has demurred.
There’s just one little problem with this scenario: Donald Trump gets it. He knows the cabal is laying in wait to use the soon-to-be-infamous rule 40(b)—a nominee must have the majority of voting delegates in at least eight states—to validate the coup despite 16 million voters who by then would have pulled the Trump lever over the others.
Trump knows that after the first ballot, more than 50 percent of the delegates will be unbound—free agents to determine who’s most deserving despite how people voted in their respective states. Trump knows delegates will be urged to protect the GOP oligarchy over the triteness of our one-person-one-vote democracy.
So Trump will do what he does best: the art of the deal. After all, he wrote a book about it, created a business empire around it and, at his core, unflinchingly believes he does it better than anyone else on the planet.
Trump is preparing to pull off the political deal of the century, where the prescriptions for success penned in his famous book become his roadmap. Three cites from the book suggest why Trump is a favorite to close the deal.
“The best dealmakers know the value publicity can add… to close a deal.” Donald Trump has rewritten the political playbook on controlling message by compelling attention and commanding the stage 24/7. This creates leverage, and leverage equates to having the upper hand at the negotiating table. In Trump’s world, whoever has the most—the most victories, the most delegates, the most mojo—wins the deal.
“Don’t think outside the box; think like there IS no box.” (Citing Blackhawk Partners CEO Ziad Abdelnour.) If it seems a deal is moving sideways because the prevailing winds of circumstance are not favorable, just create a new narrative, a new reality that now justifies the merits of the deal. Simply put, if Trump follows the GOP establishment’s convention roadmap, he’s very likely in political peril. Do the unexpected by drawing his own map, and Trump can quickly turn certain peril into political prosperity.
“You are the most powerful player in your arsenal… deal with the decision-maker… no one can sell your idea like you.” Before the first Republican delegates cast votes in Cleveland, Trump could approach Cruz with a deal creating between them an alliance of outsiders to beat the insiders at their own game. Trump can suggest they run as a ticket, promising he’ll support Cruz downstream. Failing that, Trump may even publicly declare he’ll serve only one term devoted to getting the country back on track, then throw it to Cruz to complete the assignment.
Their slogan, recognizing their currently tepid image ratings: “You may not love us, but you’ll like what we’re going to do for America.”
As of today, Trump and Cruz together hold the cards. Apart, neither one may ultimately hold the winning hand. Trump gets it; Cruz soon will. And America will watch as both write the next and greatest chapter in The Art of the Deal.
From the beginning, Trump (much like Bernie Sanders on the other side of the partisan divide) has not led a candidate campaign, but a movement. Yet unlike everyone-gets-everything-for-free Bernie, Trump wants to replace FDR’s New Deal—which put America back on its feet—with his own populist Now Deal to get America up and running again.
We must secure our borders now; save our jobs now; support our military and veterans now. In short, we must start winning now. If you know anything about Donald Trump, he’s already thinking three clicks down the road about how to make all of this happen in Cleveland, before the unsuspecting brokers of GOP power.
One thing is certain: Trump—the dealmaker—won’t go quietly into the night.