The North Dakota Republican Party’s state convention takes place this coming weekend in Fargo (the Democrats are holding theirs simultaneously in Bismarck), and it seems that at least one of candidates seeking the national GOP’s nomination for president is making a play for the state’s national delegates.
Unlike other states, North Dakota’s Republicans did not hold a primary or a caucus this election cycle. The state party’s delegates to the national convention will be chosen at the state convention this weekend, and they will not be bound to any candidate on any ballot (NDGOP national committeeman Curly Haugland argues that this is the case for all national delegates).
It seems the Cruz campaign is putting some effort into seeing of those unbound delegates could be people who support his candidacy.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”Ted Cruz staff is calling delegates to the state convention wondering if we support him and if we are running to be a national delegate,” Bismarck resident Sean Johnson, a delegate to the NDGOP convention, told me. [/mks_pullquote]
“Ted Cruz staff is calling delegates to the state convention wondering if we support him and if we are running to be a national delegate,” Bismarck resident Sean Johnson, a delegate to the NDGOP convention, told me.
“It was a quick call just getting a sense,” he added. “She asked if I supported [Cruz], not who I was supporting. She cut it short because I said I did not plan to be a national delegate.”
The Cruz campaign is obviously focused on the state. Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, is visiting Fargo, Valley City, Jamestown, and Bismarck this week.
There has been some speculation and rumor that Ted Cruz himself could be a speaker at the NDGOP convention. The party has already announced that Ben Carson, former candidate and current surrogate for front runner Donald Trump, will address the convention on Sunday. The Republicans have been teasing the possibility of another high-profile keynote speaker as well.
“I am wondering if he is trying to get a sense if coming here himself is worthwhile,” Johnson told me.
I contacted NDGOP Chairman Kelly Armstrong for an update about this mysterious second speaker and the phone calls from the Cruz campaign to state delegates. He told me that he was aware of the calls to delegates, but said he had no update on the second speaker.
It would make sense that the Cruz campaign would be doing a cost/benefit analysis of bringing their candidate to North Dakota. If they get the sense that North Dakota’s delegates are already leaning towards Cruz, or are unlikely to be pried away from Trump, the candidate may find his time better spent elsewhere.
For what it’s worth, a poll taken the end of February by DFM research showed Donald Trump as the most favored Republican candidate in North Dakota, followed by Cruz and Rubio.
An unofficial and unscientific online straw poll conducted by North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer through his re-election campaign also showed Trump as the most favored candidate:
In addition to three automatic national delegates – Armstrong, Haugland, and national committeewoman Sandy Boehler – the state convention will choose another 25 delegates to the national event.