The Delegate Side Of The Fence
In between interrogating the party operatives at all levels, I also talked to a large number of miscellaneous delegates from all counties, of course. The delegates were mostly older white people, though about 1/4 to 1/3rd or so were Hispanic (judging by appearance and names), and another 10% or so were minority. The delegate pool was about 60/40 in favor of men, not unusual.
The delegates were also heavily weighted towards the first time crowd–far more than one would have seen at conventions decades ago when I attended them in other states as a guest. I spent a lot of time with newbies, for a reason–they had the least idea what was going on, and they were the most involved and upset people in the room.
I didn’t run into a single “newbie” that was a Cruz or Kasich supporter–they were ALL Trump supporters. My other half in the guest section (and there were about 300 guests) only talked to three Cruz supporters and found no Kasich people at all, the rest were Trump.
Common Delegate Complaints/Views Expressed
By far the most common complaint I heard was that the GOP was “stealing delegates”. Anyone who follows this blog knows that is essentially a false narrative the media and GOP are pushing to try and get people to stage an uprising in Cleveland, so I spent a great deal of time leading people to this blog on their smartphones or tablets, or giving them my business card.
Many also complained about how hard it was to find information on the process to begin with, and confusion on what would happen. I will give Graham his due on this, he DID spend a decent amount of time explaining to people what was going on….But again I spent a lot of time directing people to this blog and giving them my email for specific questions.
The Cruz delegates that I spoke to had very different aims from the Trump delegates–their aim being to get delegate slots by any means, of course.Most of them were long time GOPer voters/operatives who had convention experience, so the Cruz Crew had it easy at our convention–they just took advantage of the natural ignorance and emotion of the Trump supporters.
A lot of Trump delegates, sadly, “outed” themselves at the very beginning by wearing Trump gear, so while I noted names and voted for them and encouraged others to do so, we DID lose a lot of potential votes as the GOPers (and the ground teams) were pushing the “vote the slate” narrative, and making sure that as few identified Trump delegates were on the slate as possible.
The Common Misconceptions
Many delegates believed the canard the AZGOP posted in their emails and on the website about the convention wrapping up by 3:30 or so. I was shocked we were almost wrapped up at 5:30, myself, and I have been to previous conventions where we were still going as late as 10:00 at night, or had to extend to a second day. NEVER TAKE THE PARTY’S TIME ESTIMATIONS AS ACCURATE. If my physical stamina had held out I would have stayed until the very end, and then attempted to arrange a group meet up with people at a nearby burger place after.
because many people had believed the party rah-rah, quite a few delegates signed out after the first ballot, which led to having to credential a few dozen or more alternate delegates, which is NEVER a good thing.
A convention is the single best opportunity anyone has to gather first hand knowledge, experience, intelligence, party contacts, and in some cases make business deals. You WANT the convention to take a reasonable amount of time.
Many were also confused by the inevitable screw ups and inefficiency–especially the old time party operatives, and the rural delegates and operatives. Screw ups are a fact of life at an event like this, but if the AZGOP had just stuck with paper ballots and either didn’t slate at all or let each of us slate ourselves and declare candidate support when we were selected (and printed that on the ballots), it would have been much smoother–and we would have been able to effectively grab EVERY SINGLE SEAT by multi-slating.
Multi-slating, if you can communicate the plan privately to the ground team and other delegates, is the single best strategy to grab every seat in a slated convention setting.
Analysis Of The Ground Game In Mesa–AN INDICTMENT
One of Trump’s strengths is his populist support–in terms of getting the vote. However, it’s a serious weakness when you’re sending a bunch of newbies to a convention, or your ground support is made up of people who don’t communicate the most effective old school strategies to ALL delegates well in advance of the convention. Or ground teams that are not long time involved voters in the party–and former convention participants.
Much of the ground team I met fell in the last category–very little or no prior convention/campaign experience, and effectively none in a heavily contested race. The “big guys” on the ground here weren’t in evidence, either, though they apparently participated in the at large slating.
When you’re dealing with a bunch of nervous angry newbies to politics, the FIRST people you meet at the ground team table should be people who have attended many former conventions, under all circumstances, who are confident, supportive, and friendly. Sadly, I actually heard one ground team member tell a nervous delegate with simple question it wasn’t their job to “hold her hand”, and to “google it”–before shoving a slate into her hand and telling her to just vote the slate and ignore anything else. I immediately introduced myself when she left the table, welcomed her to the process, answered her question and helped her find where she needed to be.
EXCUSE ME, GROUND TEAM PERSON–IT IS YOUR JOB.
Had the rules allowed the experienced ground team members to address the convention, or those people had been out in the delegate pool coordinating, things would have gone far better in terms of final delegate results. JUST HANDING SOMEONE PAPER AFTER PAPER AND TELLING THEM TO VOTE THE SLATE AND DON’T GET CONFUSED OR LISTEN TO ANYONE ELSE IS NOT PRODUCTIVE.
If how our convention was handled by the ground team is ANY indication of conventions elsewhere, it’s little wonder we’re having delegate issues. I spoke to almost every ground team member I could find at one point or another, and well over half had ZERO convention experience. And sadly, quite a few had what could be called “attitude” as well–while under normal circumstances, nailing your flag to the mast and being loudly defiant may work to some extent, it’s a miserable excuse for a strategy in the current situation.
Being curt, confrontational, overbearing or condescending isn’t productive either. When you hear other Trump supporters in the bathroom expressing confusion, hurt and anger because THE CANDIDATE’S GROUND TEAM MEMBERS ARE “BITCHES” OR “ASSHOLES”, YOU HAVE A REAL PROBLEM.
I’ll be the first to admit that after you have to reassure your 30th or 40th person on the very same issue as the last 30 or 40 people, or answer the same basic Politics 101 question for the 20th time in 2 hours, it’s a little bit wearing. Had I been able to find a quiet corner during lunch and round up a large number of people, I would have tabled my own damned meeting and given everyone a pep talk, some support, and allayed fears and confusion.
AND I AM NOT EVEN AN OFFICIAL CAMPAIGN WORKER. But I couldn’t find that quiet corner, and when I did suggest that to three different ground team members, they basically patted me on the head and brushed me off. I don’t know where the campaign found these yo-yo’s–but Trump was poorly served, at least in my part of the convention. I didn’t talk to every ground team member–but I did talk to a majority, as did my other half (who wasn’t impressed either, and he is not politically active).
This game has rules that most people don’t understand. It also is a very different experience to convention with all or majority newbies rather than seasoned operatives and involved party members.
PAY ATTENTION TO THIS:
WE ARE IN A SERIOUS FIGHT HERE. If you have a convention coming and are listed as a delegate, DO NOT OUT YOURSELF.
WEAR STICKERS FROM EVERY CANDIDATE IN THE RACE–or only local candidate stickers like your Senate/House contenders.
TALK TO THOSE AROUND YOU AND STUMP FOR VOTES USING GOPER BUZZWORDS.
IF SLATING HAPPENS, DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO GET SLATED FOR EVERY CANDIDATE AND THE UNITY SLATE, AND QUIETLY LET THE TRUMP TEAM AND OTHER TRUMP SUPPORTERS KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING SO THEY VOTE FOR YOU.
Any seasoned campaigner will tell you the single most important thing to do is make sure you get the votes, and the delegate slot. “Voting the slate” is ONLY a good idea IF YOU KNOW EVERYONE ON IT. In THIS game, you’re essentially playing “Liar’s Poker”. Slates can change dozens of times between the first and the moment you mark the ballot, as different party operatives work behind the scenes to get an advantage.
If your convention rules allow you to speak to your district and directly stump, QUIETLY, BEFORE YOU SPEAK, LET KEY TRUMP TEAM MEMBERS OR OTHER DELEGATES KNOW YOU WILL BE SPEAKING GOPER. If the rules don’t allow a speech, it’s up to you to introduce yourself to as many people as possible in your congressional district before the convention starts, and during it before the voting.YOU NEED TO SELL YOURSELF AS A DELEGATE.
Had I been more focused on actually going to Cleveland as a delegate than building a ground network in AZ, I WOULD have gotten chosen by any means possible–because I KNOW THE RULES. But right now, we all need to also start focusing on building state networks so we can co-opt the GOP and give it to Trump when he gets elected.
I’m sorry if my bald assessment of the ground team in Mesa offends some people. But I feel it is perfectly in order, considering my first hand experience, and the importance of upcoming conventions. I also took the time to write an email to the Trump campaign stating basically what I wrote above, and telling them politely that this is an issue that needs addressing–not the least of which because after Trump wins the nomination, his supporters will be needed to campaign during the run up to the general election. And more than a few of the Trump supporters I met, like myself, had been volunteering on the phone banks and using social media to do what they can for Trump–and were somewhat regretting doing so after yesterday.