WASHINGTON - Americans are increasingly focused on the mechanics of the presidential nominating system as Republicans confront the possibility that no candidate will have won an absolute majority of delegates to the party’s national convention in July.
That possibility was underscored Saturday when contender Ted Cruz won all 14 Republican delegates up for grabs at Wyoming’s state convention.
“We have got to unite. We have got to come together and stand as one,” the Texas senator said.
While both Democratic and Republican presidential contenders aim to win popular vote totals state-by-state, they are also wooing delegates who ultimately pick their party’s nominee at the convention.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump is heavily favored to win Tuesday’s primary in his home state of New York and boost his delegate lead.
“I’m right now millions of votes ahead of my closest rival, millions of votes,” the business mogul said at a recent campaign event. “You know, people don’t talk about votes anymore. They talk delegates. And by the way, I happen to be hundreds of delegates ahead, too.”
But Cruz is mounting an all-out effort to recruit delegates loyal to him and siphon as many away from Trump as possible.
Cruz traveled to Wyoming to appeal directly to the Republican state convention.
“We’ve got a slate of delegates who are committed to supporting me in Cleveland,” Cruz said. “If you don’t want to hand the general election to Hillary Clinton, which is what a Trump nomination does, then I ask you to support the men and women on this slate.”
Trump is crying foul.
“So the system is rigged. It’s a bad system. It’s a dirty system,” Trump said. "The [party] bosses are picking the delegates, and it’s a very bad thing.”
Trump has hired veteran operatives to help him in the delegate fight. But party officials reject Trump’s complaints about the delegate system.
“The system has been around for a long time,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. “It was good enough for Abraham Lincoln. I think it’s good enough for whoever our nominee is going to be.”
Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are also competing for delegates. But unless Sanders wins virtually all remaining states by wide margins, Clinton is heavily favored to go to the Democratic National Convention with the delegate majority she will need to secure the nomination.
“I value every voter,” Clinton said on ABC’s This Week program. “I’m not writing off any individual, and I’m certainly not writing off any state or region of our country.”
On the Republican side, should Trump fall short of an absolute majority, the votes of more than 100 uncommitted delegates will be key, as well as the loyalty of all delegates, many of whom can vote as they see fit if no nominee is chosen in the convention’s first round of balloting.