Campaigns maneuver for Mich. delegates to gain momentum

Chad Livengood and Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign scored a tactical victory at Michigan’s GOP state convention over the weekend but faces a critical three-month period to become more competitive before the national nominating convention.

Kasich’s Michigan delegates formed an alliance with frontrunner Donald Trump’s forces to deny any seats to Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s Michigan delegates on the committees that will set the rules at what may be a hotly contested Republican National Convention.

The small political victory may help Kasich at the July 18-21 national convention in Cleveland, where individuals on the committees shape the convention’s rules — which determine who is allowed to be nominated and who is actually recognized to vote.

Kasich

“We’re working hard to make sure the governor wins the nomination in a multiple-ballot convention and securing spots on committees at the convention is important,” Kasich’s chief strategist John Weaver said Sunday.

But Kasich first needs to win or finish second in a series of Northeastern and mid-Atlantic state primaries to make his case at a contested convention that he has the momentum to defeat the Democratic presidential nominee, said former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Kasich supporter.

“Over the next 90 days, that trajectory needs to take a more upward tick than it has,” said Hoekstra, R-Holland. “What John has to do is position himself as a sound alternative” to Trump and Cruz.

Kasich’s 143 delegates for the GOP nomination lag far behind Cruz’s 545 delegates and Trump’s 743 delegates. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who departed the campaign nearly a month ago, still leads Kasich with 171 delegates.

If no candidate wins 1,237 delegates before the primaries end June 7, Republicans at the national convention would cast ballots until a candidate crosses that nominating threshold.

“Right now it’s a jump ball on what’s going to happen at the national convention,” said state Rep. Gary Howell, a Kasich delegate for the 10th Congressional District from Lapeer County. “We’re a long, long way from July.”

If Kasich fails to win other states or has a poor showing in more moderate Northeastern states, such as New York on April 19, his delegates could be persuaded to drop him after the convention’s first round of voting.

“The chance that (Kasich delegates) can play kingmakers is way higher than the chance they can win the nomination,” said Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University.

If Kasich dropped out before the convention, his delegates would no longer be bound to vote for him on the first ballot, according to Michigan Republican Party rules.

At the weekend state convention in Lansing, Michigan Republicans selected 25 delegates who are bound to vote for Trump on the first ballot at the national convention. Cruz and Kasich each received 17 delegates, proportioned based on the results of Michigan’s March 8 primary that Trump won.

All three campaigns indicated they got the people they wanted in those seats. They particularly were satisfied with at-large delegate selections that were hashed out behind closed doors by state GOP leaders in an effort to stave off a contentious state convention.

State party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel actively worked to tamp down controversy by getting the Trump, Cruz and Kasich campaigns to approve a slate of 17 at-large delegates.

“We recognize that we had record turnout in Michigan. We want to make sure that the party represents the will of the voters,” said McDaniel, who took one of Trump’s 11 at-large delegate spots.

All three campaigns will now likely work to keep their delegates enthused about the candidate to whom they’re pledged, while lobbying others for support on a second or third ballot, Grossmann said. “Certainly they’ll be hot commodities, and people will be trying to contact and influence them.”

Trump

Former state House Speaker Rick Johnson, elected Saturday to be an at-large Trump delegate, downplayed the possibility that the New York businessman could lose the nomination in a contested convention to Cruz or Kasich.

“I believe that Trump will either be at 1,237 (delegates) or very close, and there’s no way you’re going to take the trophy from the NASCAR winner and give it to somebody else that wasn’t in the race or finished second or third,” Johnson told The Detroit News.

Dennis Marburger, a Trump delegate in the 9th Congressional District, said he intends to support the billionaire at the convention unless or until Trump releases his delegates.

“I think the most likely thing is that if the party doesn’t play it straight – and four years ago they didn’t – it’s going to be a disaster,” Marburger said of the national convention.

While McDaniel tried to snuff out controversy, Michigan’s convention exposed mounting tensions between the Kasich and Cruz campaigns.

Both campaigns arrived in Lansing with an agreement not to poach each other’s delegates at Friday night’s congressional district caucus elections. Trump, Cruz and Kasich got one delegate for each of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts.

Cruz

But the Cruz campaign unsuccessfully attempted to get its supporters elected to some congressional district delegate spots designated for Kasich, Weaver said.

In retaliation, Kasich’s delegates teamed up with Trump’s delegates to deny Cruz any national convention committee representatives from Michigan. “We got nailed as we came into the meeting,” said Saul Anuzis, a co-chair of Cruz’s Michigan campaign. “We clearly got double crossed.”

Anuzis, a paid senior adviser to the Cruz campaign, suggested the Trump-Kasich alliance has the makings of a general election ticket.

“I think we’re seeing the first signs of Kasich trying to pander to Trump and audition for vice president,” Anuzis told The News.

Weaver rejected the suggestion that his boss is vying for a spot on Trump’s ticket. Kasich has recently stepped up criticism of Trump’s ability to lead the country, while Trump has called on the Ohio governor to quit the race.

“I like Saul, but he can be delusional,” Weaver said. “At the end of the day, if you try to rig an election and lose, don’t whine about it.”

Still, the Kasich campaign’s play for seats didn’t sit well with one of its Michigan delegates.

Bill Runco, Kasich’s 12th Congressional District delegate from Dearborn, said the process was unfair to the Cruz campaign. The slight could be “problematic” when Republicans assemble in Cleveland, said Runco, a former state representative and ex-Wayne County judge.

“If you freeze people out of things,” he said, “well, it’s pretty hard to get them back when you need them.”

clivengood@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @ChadLivengood

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Michigan’s GOP delegates

The party’s state convention approved a slate of 59 delegates and alternate delegates for the July 18-21 national convention in Cleveland. The national Republican Party still needs to certify the lists. New York businessman Donald Trump gets 25 delegates, while Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich get 17 each.

Trump delegates

Kalamazoo County Treasurer Mary Balkema, National Committeewoman Kathy Berden, Steve Boron, state Sen. Jack Brandenburg, Linda Burns Torp, Amy Carl, Susan Chmielewski, Glenn Frobel, Scott Hagerstrom, Matt Hall, state Sen. Joe Hune, state Rep. Brandt Iden, Ex-House Speaker Rick Johnson, Janine Kateff, Meshawn Maddock, Debra Mantey, Dennis Marburger, state Rep. Ed McBroom, Christopher Morris, Wes Nakagiri, Gustavo Portela, State Party Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, Diane Schindlebeck, Ian Shetron and ex-state Rep. Sharon Tyler

Alternates: Dean Berden, Scott Brew, Tyrell Bundy, Margaret Copeland, Paul DeYoung, Kevin Even, John Haggard, Jeanine Herlacher, Jan Johnson, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Catherine Kirk, Cody Maynard, Carl Meyers, Pauline Montie, Robert Oestreich, Dennis Pittman, state GOP co-chair Jeff Sakwa, Charlie Secchia, Marian Sheridan, Linda Lee Tarver, Ken Thompson, Kathleen Thorrez and Jack Walker

Cruz delegates

Dave Agema, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, Ex-party Chairman Saul Anuzis, Daniel Bernard, Fred Bertsch, Barbara Bookout, Josephine Brown, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, Wendy Day, Karen Faett, Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz, state Rep. Ray Franz, state Rep. Gary Glenn, Denise Magewick-Schlotz, Mary Ann Rankey, John Taylor and John Wolfsberger

Alternates: Barbara Agema, Margo Aseltine, Kent Boersema, Page Brousseau IV, Sandra Call, House Speaker Kevin Cotter, Penny Crider, ex-state Sen. Alan Cropsey, Kurt Foulds, Theodore Golubinski, William Gordon, Bonnie Landrum, Kurt O’Keefe, Bill Parfet, state Rep. Lana Theis and Lisa Valerio-Nowc

Kasich delegates

Kersten Bond, Tim Brown, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Tamara Carlone, ex-party Chairwoman Betsy DeVos,ex-U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, state Rep. Gary Howell, John Inhulsen, state Rep. Nancy Jenkins, Robert Little, Scott McGraw, Michigan State University Trustee David Porteous, University of Michigan Regent Andrew Richner, ex-state Rep. William Runco, Judi Schwalbach, Yavonne Whitbeck and ex-National Committeeman Chuck Yob

Alternates: Brian Bruce Beauchine, Chris Beckering, Randy Bishop, Nicholas Buggia, Cheryl Costantino, Thomas Llewellyn, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, David Nicholson, state Rep. Philip Potvin, Doug Reimel, ex-state Rep.Paul Scott, Paul Segers, Ida Shelly, state Rep. Jason Sheppard, Amanda Van Essen Wirth and state Rep. Mary Whiteford and Pamela Williams

Source: Michigan Republican Party