Donald Trump is set to suffer another delegate defeat in Wyoming Saturday, but Ted Cruz supporters are going out of their way to avoid rubbing it in.
With a dominant presence among the state Republican convention’s 505 delegates, Cruz’s campaign is bending over backward to avoid the appearance of “rigging” the system in the state. The effort comes a week after a contentious state convention in Colorado, where Trump failed to win a single delegate, leading the candidate to rail against the state party and his chief rival. The Cruz campaign is hoping to avoid a repeat this weekend.
On Friday, at the Cruz-supporter-dominated nominations committee, rather than forwarding a slate of 14 delegates to the full convention as has been done in previous cycles, the committee reported at least 64 names, including a mix of Trump, Kasich, and unpledged delegates. Nor was there a contentious bylaws committee fight designed to bolster the Cruz campaign’s slate.
Dick Shanor, a Cruz supporter and delegate to the national convention from Laramie County, told TIME that Cruz backers did everything to avoid protestations that the process is rigged. “We could have taken over and done what we wanted,” he said. “But we let it go. These are all our friends, even if they're Trump people.”
“We went out of our way to give them every opportunity,” he added.
A Trump representative on the ground acknowledged that the party had been more than helpful, and credited the Cruz campaign for not trying to block Trump delegate hopefuls. But the campaign was realistic about their long odds in a state where has Cruz exploited the multi-level delegate selection process to lay the groundwork for another win.
“The more people that get a vote, the better we do,” said Trump senior advisor Alan Cobb. In Wyoming the inverse is likely to be true, as the state’s decades-old process doesn’t have a presidential preference vote. Instead Republicans participate in precinct caucuses, county conventions, and the state convention to select delegates.
Cruz is the only candidate set to attend the convention in person. Of the 1,590 votes cast in the March 12 county conventions, 1128 were for Cruz, giving him control of the vast majority of delegates to the state convention. On Thursday, the Trump campaign announced that its designated surrogate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, would skip the convention. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is sending Idaho Gov. Butch Otter on his behalf.
State GOP chairman Matt Micheli told TIME he was upset Palin couldn’t represent the Trump campaign at the convention. The party hoped to avoid the appearance of being biased toward any specific candidate. “All we’re trying to do is give everybody a level playing field—make sure all the campaigns are represented and have a fair chance,” he said.