Republican frontrunner Donald Trump says Texas Sen. Ted Cruz cannot win after Trump's commanding New York primary victory, but Cruz has accelerated his drive to secure delegates for the presidential nomination.
The Cruz campaign's delegate strategy is getting a crucial test in Virginia, with help from Ken Cuccinelli, one of the commonwealth's most prominent Republicans.
"We don’t have much of a race anymore, based on what I’m seeing on television," Trump told supporters after Tuesday night's vote left him with more than 60 percent of the popular vote in the Empire State. "Senator Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated."
Cruz is "not going to be able to catch Trump in terms of popular votes or delegates won," Kyle Kondik, managing editor of the widely read political newsletter Sabato's Crystal Ball, told AMI Newswire. "So if he’s going to win the nomination, it will have to be because Trump fails to get a majority."
But Cruz's campaign continues its aggressive campaign with state-level Republican organizations, where delegates are actually selected for the national convention in Cleveland this July.
Former Virginia attorney general Cuccinelli is helping Cruz in this effort. Cuccinelli, an experienced infighter, has proven his ability to turn otherwise routine elections for party leadership positions into referendums on the party's future.
In preparation for Virginia's 2013 gubernatorial race, Cuccinelli and his staff worked a series of local Virginia Republican Party meetings throughout 2012 to elect members to the Party's governing board, friendly to Cuccinelli.
His efforts produced a state party that was more philosophically friendly to Cuccinelli, and his new allies on the state's governing board switched the method for selecting the state's gubernatorial nominee from a primary, which would have favored his likely opponent, then-Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, to a pro-Cuccinelli convention of state party activists.
Bolling suspended his campaign for the nomination in November 2012. Cuccinelli was nominated, without opposition, in June 2013.
If Cuccinelli can work his grassroots magic a second time, and on a national scale, Kondik says it would be unprecedented in modern politics.
"There’s no modern equivalent to a candidate finishing second in primary votes and delegates before the primary and winning the nomination – 'modern' meaning the post-reform era that started in 1972," Kondik said.
"Cruz is pursuing a very old-fashioned but perfectly legitimate strategy by trying to win the nomination on a second ballot," Kondik added. "A convention hasn’t gone beyond the first ballot since 1952."
Kondik said that much of what is happening in the race now is a "perception game."
"If Trump finishes just short of 1,237," Kondik said, "he could probably get a few uncommitted delegates to support him if he finishes strong, meaning he wins California and New Jersey on June 7."
Kondik added that the Cruz strategy of winning delegate elections in states that have already held their primaries and caucuses is a change of pace for the Texas senator.
"We’re in an era where Republicans, in particular, hate their party leadership and party insiders," Kondik said. "And Cruz, despite being an outsider, is pursuing a very insidery path to the nomination. It may be successful but it would ruffle a lot of feathers."
Cruz's delegate strategy could potentially "give the anti-Trump forces a majority on questions of rules, credentials and platform
– all of which must be ratified or rejected by the full convention before the first ballot for president," former Trump political advisor Roger Stone wrote on his Stone Zone website.
"This," Stone wrote, "is where the big steal will take place."
To counter this, Stone started a group called Stop the Steal, which seeks to organize "the biggest Rally in Cleveland history," with the aim of "express[ing] our rage over the hijacking of democracy."
Stone's effort also seeks to have Trump delegates sign a pledge stating that "they will remain committed to vote for the winner of the primary or caucus as chosen by the voters, through the entire balloting process."
In an April 15 memo to 'Interested Parties,' Republican National Committee chief strategist and communications director Sean Spicer wrote that, "party rules surrounding the delegate selection have been clearly laid out in every state and territory and while each state is different, each process is easy to understand for those willing to learn it."
"Whether delegates are awarded through a primary, caucus or convention," Spicer added, "this process is democracy in action and driven by grassroots voters across the country."