Presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump announced plans to open a new campaign office for senior staff in Washington, D.C., on March 29, amid concerns over his ability to procure the necessary delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination.
The specific location and opening date for the office have not yet been announced. The office is planned to function as the center for Trump’s delegate selection team as well as its congressional relations team.
“Mr. Trump is announcing that his campaign is opening a Washington, DC based office to coordinate his campaign’s work with the Republican National Committee, Congress, and his convention and delegate operations,” a press release published on Trump’s official website March 29 reads. “The office will serve as a conduit for outreach for Mr. Trump’s campaign organization nationally.”
Senior Trump campaign adviser Barry Bennett noted that some viewed the move as a way to forge better connections and gain the support of politicians on Capitol Hill. He added that the opening of the office is a natural next step as the Trump campaign looks toward the general election with the candidate as the Republican frontrunner.
“It’s an acknowledgement that he’s the nominee: he’s the presumptive nominee,” Bennett said to the Associated Press. “Having an office here in Washington and working with them [Congressmen] every day will make it a lot easier to do that.”
So far, Trump has the support of 736 pledged delegates. He must obtain the support of 1,237 total delegates before the July 18-21 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in order to receive the Republican nomination on the first ballot. If no single candidate has this majority of delegates after the first ballot, a brokered convention with a second ballot will be held, and the candidate must have the support of a delegate majority from at least eight delegations to secure the nomination.
Georgetown University College Republicans President Megan Pohl (COL ’17) said if Trump is denied the Republican nomination, he could attempt to run as a third-party candidate who would split the Republican vote. As a result, Trump may be preparing for a general election campaign, which would necessitate the D.C. office, regardless of his status as a Republican or not.
Pohl said the announcement of Trump’s D.C. office reflected the candidate’s desire to select the right delegates to represent him at the Republican National Convention.
Pohl said delegate selection could be a matter of survival for Trump’s candidacy because if he does not obtain 1,237 delegates, he will have a hard time winning the nomination.
“I am not in a position to conjecture as to the likelihood of a contested convention,” Pohl said. “I believe there is a general hope among establishment and anti-Trump conservatives that there will be a contested convention so that someone else may win the Republican nomination.”
Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service Fellow Katie Packer, who served as former Deputy Campaign Manager for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign and founder of Our Principles PAC, an anti-Trump super PAC, explained that there remain many unpledged delegate slots that candidates must fill with their supporters or risk seeing these delegates desert them on the second ballot.
While popular primary elections determine how some delegates will vote on the first ballot for the Republican presidential candidate, the delegates themselves are elected to the convention afterward and do not necessarily have to support the candidate for whom they are bound to vote on the first ballot.
“That’s as important as a part of this process as these statewide votes are. We don’t nominate a candidate to be our standard bearer by popular vote,” Packer said. “We nominate delegates who nominate the candidate.”
Packer noted that Romney’s 2012 campaign made a concerted effort to get the candidate’s supporters elected as delegates, an effort she said is missing from the Trump campaign.
Packer said that Trump’s inability to prevent rivals such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) from recruiting delegates who are unlikely to support Trump after the first ballot, in which they are bound to vote for him, shows a lack of organization.
Packer said that Trump — in order to win as Romney did in 2012 — needs to focus solely on one goal, which is winning the nomination.
“We didn’t whine and complain about people treating us unfairly,” Packer said. “We went out and won the fight, and that’s part of the battle when you’re running for president.”
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