William F. B. O'Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.
Donald Trump has a favorite word.
“I have the best words,” he explained to a South Carolina audience a few months back, “but there is no better word than ‘stupid.’ ”
I beg to differ. I can think of a hundred better words than “stupid,” but perhaps none more fitting to describe Trump’s lack of a delegate strategy in the presidential primary up until now, although asinine and imbecilic do present themselves as worthy alternatives.
The New York businessman has come a long way in the past 10 months employing nothing but shock tactics; farther than I ever imagined he could. He’s made lots of noise, gotten tons of media attention and forced some good Republicans from the 2016 presidential race.
But Trump made a classic mistake along the way — right out of Aesop’s Fables — that’s only now becoming fully apparent. Like the old arrogant hare in the storybook, Trump got cocky and forgot all about that tortoise plodding closely behind him in the form of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and his talented pit team.
Trump was so confident of victory that he refused to hire political experts, until just recently, who know how state delegate processes work. When the primary field narrowed, and the contests became more strategic, he found himself flat footed and outmaneuvered.
Trump and his team are predictably screaming bloody murder and calling the Republican process “rigged” — without evidence, Trump has confessed. How were they supposed to know Colorado’s intricacies, or Louisiana’s or Utah’s or Wisconsin’s?
Maybe someone should have read the rules. They happen to be the same for everyone.
Trump’s supporters are spreading this conspiracy narrative on various social media platforms. It will be their way of rationalizing a Trump loss at the convention, if that were to occur, and casting blame once again on this elusive and conspiratorial “establishment” they’re always talking about.
The conversation is poison to the Party of Lincoln. It will tear it apart if Trump falls legitimately short in Cleveland. And it will be based on a lie.
As the writer Ben Shapiro pointed out this week, Trump has actually benefitted from the GOP delegate process. He’s won just 37 percent of the Republican popular vote, but he’s garnered 45 percent of the delegates allotted to date because some states have been winner-take-all.
You don’t hear the Cruz campaign or Ohio Gov. John Kasich crying about that. They know where they lost fair and square; they took the time to study the process.
I strongly agree with Trump supporters on one thing: He must be awarded the nomination if he receives 1,237 delegate votes before or at the convention. Those are the rules, and everyone must abide by them, like it or not. But if Trump doesn’t hit that number because his dog ate his math homework, it will be his fault, and his fault alone.
I fear that won’t be enough for many of his supporters though. Conspiracy theories are notoriously hard to tamp down, and I’m not sure that Trump will step in to mend the fractures within the party if he doesn’t become the nominee.
That’s three months away, though, an eternity in politics. We’ll cross, or burn, that bridge when we come to it.
This primary season has been marred by gratuitous nastiness on all sides. And I’d feel lousy leaving off with the word “stupid” hanging out there to describe Mr. Trump’s strategic oversight, even if it is his favorite. Let’s say instead that Trump’s lack of a delegate strategy heretofore has been, well, less than optimally brilliant, and leave it at that.
I just wish he would admit it and move on, for the good of the Republican Party.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a Republican consultant.