The man charged with managing delegates for Donald Trump believes that the business mogul will prevail even at a contested presidential nominating convention in Cleveland this summer — though he insists it won’t come to that.
Ed Brookover asserted in an interview with The Hill that Trump is “easily going to surpass” the magic number of 1,237 delegates required to capture the nomination before the convention.
Skeptics suggest Trump’s task is significantly more difficult after his stinging loss to Ted Cruz in Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary. Trump gained only six delegates in that contest, and Cruz won 36, according to The Associated Press.
Trump still enjoys a healthy lead over Cruz in total delegates but he needs to win around 60 percent of those who are up for grabs in the contests that remain if he is to reach 1,237.
Brookover said that getting any delegates at all from Wisconsin was “a bonus” for the Trump campaign. He argued that the businessman’s path to the nomination was through other states, including his home state of New York, which will vote on April 19.
“We have New York and the northeast still to come,” Brookover said, adding that the Trump campaign also expected to do very well when competing for the biggest prize of all: California, which votes on the last day of the GOP campaign, June 7, and where 172 delegates are at stake.
“The rest of the calendar works very much in our favor,” he said.
On the subject of Cruz’s competitiveness with Trump, Brookover steered a nuanced course. He acknowledged that the Cruz campaign had begun working at a granular level on the delegate issue earlier than had Team Trump. But he said that the businessman’s campaign was “doing fine” and further jabbed that “while Senator Cruz has won a few p.r. battles, he has not been winning many delegate battles.”
Yet, at the same time, Brookover fired a warning shot against any members of the GOP establishment who might believe that it will be possible to nominate a different candidate entirely as a “compromise choice” at the convention. The name of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been floated as one such possibility.
“The Trump team and the Cruz team are going to be on the same side,” in rejecting any such efforts, he said.
Brookover’s professions of confidence are to be expected given his role as a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. But he is also speaking from a position of deep experience. His first convention, he notes, was in 1976 — which happened to be the last time the nomination of a major party was in doubt as the convention opened. President Gerald Ford on that occasion turned back a challenge from Ronald Reagan.
Brookover’s resumé also includes stints at a high level of the Republican National Committee in the 1980s as well as at the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
His establishment background seems to sit incongruously with Trump’s outsider appeal. The campaign’s already-heated insurgent rhetoric was ramped up further in the wake of the loss in Wisconsin, with a primary-night statement asserting that Cruz was “a Trojan horse being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump.”
Brookover, despite his deep roots in the Washington GOP, endorses the idea that “the frustration in America with the status quo is almost palpable” and says that Trump has particular appeal “for those Americans who feel left out.”
But he also insists that this plays directly into the battle for delegates. Although the rules for delegate selection are extremely complicated, and vary from state to state, there have been increasing suggestions that party insiders might engage in backroom machinations to try to thwart Trump — either by leaning on state-level delegates to support other candidates or perhaps by tweaking the rules as the Republican National Convention opens in Cleveland.
Brookover asserts that such maneuvers only increase the ardor of Trump’s supporters.
“In a sort of perverse way, when the establishment stands up [against Trump], it only makes our supporters say, ‘I’m going to go out and get three more people to vote for him.’ It’s a sign to our voters that he’s right.”
Brookover originally worked for Dr. Ben Carson’s presidential campaign during this election cycle, coming over to Trump on the same day last month that Carson endorsed the New York business mogul. The media spotlight has increasingly focused on Brookover and Paul Manafort, who will be the Trump campaign’s convention manager, as the delegate math becomes paramount.
At the same time, however, some media reports have alluded to tensions in the campaign, often revolving around Manafort on one side and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on the other. Lewandowski’s controversial status has become even more pronounced since he was recently charged with battery against a reporter. However, Trump has remained fiercely loyal to his aide.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied suggestions of internal tension, telling The Hill via email that “there is no truth to these reports.”