Donald Trump Hires Paul Manafort to Lead Delegate Effort

Donald J. Trump, girding for a long battle over presidential delegates and a potential floor fight at the Cleveland convention, has enlisted the veteran Republican strategist Paul J. Manafort to lead his delegate-corralling efforts, according to people briefed on Mr. Trump’s plans.

Mr. Trump confirmed the hire in a brief telephone interview. “Yes,” he said, “it is true.”

Mr. Manafort, 66, is among the few political hands in either party with direct experience managing nomination fights: As a young Republican operative, he helped manage the 1976 convention floor for Gerald Ford in his showdown with Ronald Reagan, the last time Republicans entered a convention with no candidate having clinched the nomination.

He performed a similar function for Mr. Reagan in 1980, and played leading roles in the 1988 and 1996 conventions, for George Bush and Bob Dole.

Mr. Manafort has drawn attention in recent years chiefly for his work as an international political consultant, most notably as a senior adviser to former President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine, who was driven from power in 2014.

The hiring is a sign that Mr. Trump is intensifying his focus on delegate wrangling as his opponents mount a tenacious effort to deny him the 1,237 delegates he would need to secure the Republican nomination. Under those circumstances, Mr. Trump’s opponents hope they can wrest that prize from him in a contested convention.

Bringing Mr. Manafort on board may shore up Mr. Trump’s operation in an area where his opponents currently see him as vulnerable. In an alarming tactical setback for Mr. Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported last week that he might harvest fewer delegates from his primary win in Louisiana than Senator Ted Cruz, whose campaign has aggressively picked off delegates who are uncommitted or apportioned to candidates no longer in the race.

Too many missteps of that kind could force Mr. Trump unnecessarily into a Cleveland floor fight.

By hiring Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump aims to avert such a situation. The move is freighted with political symbolism: After the 1980 election, Mr. Manafort was among the young-gun Reagan operatives who founded one of Washington’s best-known political consulting and lobbying shops.

His principal business partners were Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime Trump confidant who frequently advocates for the campaign on television, and Charles R. Black Jr.

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio unveiled Mr. Black as an adviser earlier this month, in an announcement intended to convey his readiness for a contested convention — effectively making Mr. Black and Mr. Manafort, allies dating to the 1970s, direct competitors in the 2016 race.

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