One wonders why Trump did not show up. Perhaps he did not want politically sophisticated players to confront him. These are people who will not be impressed by his big talk and lack of policy and political acumen. “The RNC members ask tough questions,” veteran GOP strategist Katie Packer, who runs the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC, tells me. “They care about important issues that matter to Republicans and they want to look candidates in the eye.”
Indeed, delegates are likely to ask all sorts of pesky questions:
You used to claim you were leading Hillary Clinton in “all the polls.” Now you’re behind in all of them so shouldn’t the delegates pick someone who isn’t losing?You say women, Hispanics and other groups “love” you, yet your unfavorable ratings with all these voters is higher than any other potential nominee in history. How can you win when so many voters really do not like you?Why haven’t you gotten up to speed on policy issues, and why don’t you have well-respected policy advisers?How can you possibly get on a stage with Clinton and not seem in over your head?Don’t give us the excuse about being audited. Why don’t you release your returns? What are you hiding?How can you go after Clinton for improprieties when you haven’t revealed your own taxes, face a civil fraud trial and have repeated instances in which you’ve run afoul of labor laws?Your extreme positions on trade with China and threats against Mexico scare us, not to mention foreign allies. How are you going to get along without embroiling the United States in constant, self-destructive conflicts?Your lack of a proper campaign organization may cost you the nomination. Even if you stumble over the finish line, how are you going to run an effective general election campaign?Your handling of the Corey Lewandowski incident was troubling since you denied facts plain to everyone and tried to smear the victim. You chose to stick by an aide who was so incompetent he’s essentially been downgraded to a body man for you. How do we know you have enough tact to cut your losses to put an end to a controversy? What are we supposed to think about your judgment in hiring quality people?Paul Manafort has staffed your campaign with lobbyists. Isn’t this hypocritical considering how you’ve slammed lobbyists? Are you concerned that Manafort has lobbied for brutal dictatorships and those guilty of human rights atrocities?Why do you keep accusing us of rigging the system? On what basis are you claiming we are corrupt? Didn’t you know the rules going in? Aren’t you blaming us for your campaign’s incompetence?
The last batch of questions may be the most serious challenge. Trump digs himself a hole by repeating the mantra that the system is “rigged” and the system is corrupt. “Once again, Donald Trump lacks any understanding about the role of volunteers in the Republican Party,” says Cruz communications director Alice Stewart. “Delegates are the grassroots of the GOP. These are the folks who knock on the doors, make the phone calls, stuff envelopes, make sure the Republican campaign office opens in their town, make small donations, and support conservative candidates and their causes.” She argues, “Donald doesn’t understand or care about the important role these volunteers play in the success of the party. That’s why he doesn’t gave them any respect, and instead insults them.” Cruz, by contrast, spends time praising the grass roots. Stewart thinks that loyalty and appreciation will run both ways and sees him as “the only candidate who can unite Republicans because he’s been a champion of the issues that have always defined the Republican Party.”
You can see why Trump might be scared to show up, face the people he’s smeared and undergo the sort of kick-the-tires treatment Cruz received. “Trump wants to send his lobbyist team to talk to delegates, not face the music himself,” Packer says. “I’m sure that tactic will be noted by the delegates when they choose a leader.” Perhaps GOP voters will as well.