Ben Ginsberg: A Well-Organized Campaign Will Go To State Conventions To Pick Up Delegates For Second Ballot


CHUCK TODD: Donald Trump is in a race to 1,237. It's a number now we're all getting used to and familiar with. And he can't afford to miss hitting that magic number. And here's why. Because there's already an effort underway to stop him on a second ballot at the convention in Cleveland. Right now, Trump has 752 delegates and a 282 delegate lead over Ted Cruz.

In order to hit the magic 1,237 majority number and earn that glide path the nomination, Trump has to win 54 percent of the remaining delegates. And he has some favorable contests coming up, like his home state of New York, which has 95 delegates up for grabs, and a winner-take-all state of New Jersey, where maybe his buddy Chris Christie can help him win those 51 delegates.

But, the race is already on to create sort of delegate double agents. If Trump fails to win that majority on the first ballot these are people who will promise to dump Trump on the second ballot. And then there's an effort underway to mobilize zombie delegates. These are delegates who are pledged to candidates who have dropped out of the race.

They could switch their vote over to someone else in the race, maybe even on the first ballot. Maybe it's Cruz, maybe it's Trump. So to discuss all of this, I'm joined by our resident zombie expert, Ben Ginsberg, Republican delegate guru, who served, of course, as lead counsel to the Bush/Cheney campaign of 2000 and he was Mitt Romney's lawyer in 2012. So the zombie apocalypse will hit Cleveland.

So we have free-agent delegates, we have zombie delegates. I want to talk about the free-agent delegates first, because we have Donald Trump this morning already angry about this. Louisiana, he wins the primary big, he should get a lion's share of the delegates. The Cruz campaign claims they actually are going to have more delegates out of Louisiana, a state they lost, than Trump. How did they do it? Explain.

BEN GINSBERG: The way they managed to do it is that 44 of the 56 states and territories give the candidates no role in choosing who the delegates will pick.

CHUCK TODD: Who the individuals are.

BEN GINSBERG: Who the individuals are. And so a well-organized campaign will go into all these state conventions and state executive committee meetings and manage to get supporters of theirs. They'll be bound on the first ballot to the winner of their state primary, but not for any of the procedural rules issues, and not for the second ballot...

The campaigns will be very aggressive in going to the state convention where these unbound delegates are selected. You're going to have three tests coming right up in the first three weeks. You're going other have Fargo, North Dakota, you're going to have Colorado Springs, Colorado, and then you're going to have Casper, Wyoming.

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