First they spenttens of strying to boost their favorite presidential candidates, then they poured cash into ads attacking Donald Trump, and now some of the biggest donors on the right are turning their attention to the delegate fight.
In the coming weeks and even at the convention, Hubbard said, big donors and super PACs like Our Principles "can certainly try to influence people. I could call a delegate and say what I think, if they'd talk to me. I can buy a billboard. I can run ads. Why not?" Trump's campaign will also be working to whip delegates, Hubbard noted, "and you'll have other people trying to do the same thing. So fair is fair."
Our Principles' delegate strategy has attracted far less attention â" and money â" than multi-dollar advertising campaigns that have bombarded the televisions, smart phones and mailboxes of regular voters in key primary states like Florida, Wisconsin and New York.
But in some ways, the effort to influence the much smaller universe of party activists who attend state and national party conventions is more notable. It expands the role of major donors and their super PACs into new terrain that until recently was the sole purview of campaigns and party insiders, and it could set the stage for Our Principles to run a privatized whipping operation â" and potentially even play kingmaker â" at a national convention, where it is increasingly likely that the presidential nomination will be decided in a floor fight where byzantine rules and interpersonal relationships hold sway.
It's a dynamic in which Trump's skeleton campaign staff has lagged.
While Trump has tried to beef up his delegate operation in recent weeks with new hires, he also has blasted the process as a corrupt effort by party insiders to steal the nomination from him. It's a "crooked deal," he argued Monday on Fox News after his leading GOP presidential rival, Ted Cruz, lopsided victoriesover the weekend at party conventions in South Carolina and Colorado where party activists elected delegates to the national convention, the overwhelming majority of whom are loyal to Cruz.
Trump said on Fox that "the people out there are going crazy â" in the Denver area and Colorado itself â" and they're going absolutely crazy because they weren't given a vote, this was given by politicians."
To be sure, Cruz's campaign outreach to delegates has played a major role in his delegate-hunting advantage in caucuses and conventions.
He rejected Trump's allegations of corruption and said his PAC is merely capitalizing on Trump's lack of preparation in Colorado, which canceled its primary last year in favor of the convention. "The campaigns have known about this for a year and some argued for a primary, but Trump was not among them because he was too busy tweeting at the haters and losers," said Miller.
Those operatives have also supervised the distribution of hundreds of copies of an anti-Trump "voter guide" that portrays the New York aire as a charlatan who favored abortion rights, donated hundreds of s of dollars to Democrats, knogly used "illegal immigrant" labor to build Trump Tower and questioned Ronald Reagan's backbone, among other sins ast conservativism.