The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

To counter Cruz’s organization, Trump to personally court delegates at Calif. convention, but Va. visit canceled

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Hagerstown, Md., on April 24. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

This post has been updated.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, whose campaign has struggled in the delegate-selection process, will appear at a party convention in California later this week to personally court activists and address the gathering.

But Trump’s plan to speak at the Virginia GOP convention in Harrisonburg on Saturday — reported Monday by The Washington Post as part of the candidate’s ramped-up delegate efforts — was scrapped Tuesday afternoon after logistical concerns were raised following The Post report.

“The Republican Party of Virginia has confirmed that Donald J. Trump will NOT be attending the 2016 RPV Convention in Harrisonburg this weekend,” the Republican Party of Virginia said in a statement Tuesday. “Despite media reports to the contrary, Trump was never scheduled to speak at the convention.”

“We are honored any time any of our candidates visit the Commonwealth. Donald Trump has already visited Virginia on many occasions, and will no doubt return again in the near future,” the party added. “RPV looks forward to working with our Presidential nominee to secure Virginia's 13 Electoral Votes and ensuring that Hillary Clinton returns to the private sector. We hope this clarifies the situation.”

The decision to cancel the Virginia trip was made in a series of campaign calls Monday and Tuesday where the prospect of disruptive protests and the benefits of an appearance were discussed and debated, according to three people close to the Trump campaign.

The Virginia Republican convention will be held at the James Madison University convocation center, with the state party renting space from the university. In a Twitter message Monday, JMU quickly distanced itself from Trump, saying on Twitter that there is "no contact between JMU & Trump campaign. The event referenced not a JMU-sponsored event."

The people who told of Trump’s planned appearances requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The Post learned of Trump’s desire to attend more state GOP conventions late Sunday after talking with campaign sources, who said the billionaire mogul personally asked his political high command to add more delegate-targeting events to his schedule, confident that his presence and overtures could convince some delegates to get behind his campaign.

When asked early Monday for comment, a Trump adviser confirmed that the billionaire would be traveling to California and Virginia but would not provide details of his schedule. The California GOP later Monday formally announced that Trump would deliver the convention's keynote luncheon speech as its proceedings begin.

The proposed travels are part of an evolving strategy with Trump’s inner circle about how to counter Sen. Ted Cruz’s highly organized efforts at recent state Republican conventions, where the Texas senator accumulated a growing number of delegates because of his team’s ability to navigate the events and rules.

And they come as Paul Manafort, Trump’s newly enlisted confidant and convention manager, is bringing on new personnel and attempting to bolster the campaign’s delegate operation. On Monday, Ken McKay, the former campaign manager for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination, signed on as a senior adviser, a hire first reported by Bloomberg.

Over the weekend, for example, Cruz won 95 percent of Maine’s 20 delegate seats at the state’s convention, a percentage far more than the proportion he won in the state’s caucuses.

Cruz dominates, Trump falls short again as more states pick delegates

But in Maine, Trump did not speak or hold meetings as he plans to later in the week. Instead, a leading supporter, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, spoke there, as did another ally, Gov. Paul LePage (R).

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz defended his anti-Trump alliance with rival John Kasich April 25. (Video: Reuters)

Trump was said to be fuming Monday about the move over the weekend by Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to cut an unusual deal – agreeing to divvy up three upcoming primaries. Cruz will concentrate on Indiana, Kasich on New Mexico and Oregon as they try to deny Trump victories.

Cruz and Kasich devise strategy to keep Trump from clinching three primary states