Donald Trump's campaign advisers believe the billionaire mogul is emerging as the "prohibitive favorite" in the Republican presidential race and project that he will accumulate more than 1,400 delegates to secure the nomination on the first round of balloting at the party's Cleveland convention, according to an internal campaign memorandum.
The projections come in a memo distributed to Trump surrogates late Tuesday night containing talking points for use in media interviews this week. The memo, obtained by The Washington Post, describes Trump's commanding win in the New York primary as "YUGE" and encourages his supporters to speak out about what Trump has described as a "rigged" process of selecting delegates for the Republican National Convention in July.
The memo refers to the campaign's staff shakeup, with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski's power diminished and newly-hired adviser Paul Manafort assuming broad control over the campaign's strategy and its enhanced budget. It reads, "Building out our campaign staff to make sure we leave no stone unturned and that we can win this thing on the up and up — not through a rigged set of rules."
After Trump won plaudits Tuesday night for appearing more presidential by ditching his signature insult of Ted Cruz as "Lyin' Ted," the talking-points memo refers derisively to the Texas senator's campaign.
"The Cruz spin machine produces more lies than anything else," the memo reads. "Our projections call for us to accumulate over 1400 delegates and thus a first ballot nomination win in Cleveland."
Candidates need at least 1,237 delegates to win the nomination. Trump has 845 delegates, with Cruz at 559 and Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 147, according to calculations by the Associated Press. Trump hopes to pass the threshold by winning primaries between now and June and by courting the roughly 200 or so convention delegates who are unbound.
The memo outlines the campaign's opposition to the delegate selection rules. "We might as well have had straw polls instead of Secretary of State sanctioned primaries," it reads.
As Manafort and another new hire, national political director Rick Wiley, meet privately with Republican National Committee members in Florida this week, the memo instructs campaign surrogates to publicly lash out at the RNC.
"The RNC has a lot to answer for as do those who are part of the donor class and the party establishment," the memo reads. "This movement scares the hell out of them and the people scare them, so they will do whatever they can to keep power."
The 1,165-word memo was distributed via e-mail to a blind list of surrogates and other supporters by Trump aide Erica Freeman. Spokeswoman Hope Hicks as well as Rick Gates, a Manafort deputy, were copied on the message. The campaign has been sending similar memos almost daily for the past couple of weeks, another sign that the operation is maturing into a more traditional political operation under Manafort's leadership.
The memo presents talking points on a number of policy issues at the center of Trump's campaign — from his opposition to free trade and tax reform to protecting Americans from "radical Islam" and building a wall along the border with Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out of the United States.
Looking ahead to the general election, the campaign instructs its supporters to say of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton: "Hillary email scandal is going to loom large over the next several months. If anyone else had done what she had done, they would already be in prison."
The memo also attempts to break apart a congealing narrative that Trump's favorability ratings are so poor that he would be almost certain to lose a general election.
"On its face the argument is absurd," the memo reads. "Everyone knows these numbers are quite fluid."
The memo points out that the approval ratings of "our opponents" — Clinton, Cruz, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Congress overall — are highly negative as well.
"Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have almost identical numbers," the memo reads. "Mitt Romney is wildly unpopular and gets crushed by Hillary Clinton in the poll."