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How Donald Trump almost missed the ballot in Minnesota (and what that says about his campaign)

Donald Trump (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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Donald Trump was not expected to win Minnesota — but he very nearly didn't even have the chance to try. And the reason is a perfect reminder of all the things that can go wrong when a candidate relies on a party to essentially prop up a presidential campaign, as Trump has done.

Here's what happened:

On Thursday evening, former state GOP official Michael Brodkorb got a call that Trump's name wasn't on Minnesota's sample ballot.

It was four days before the deadline, and the presidential candidates for the Legal Marijuana Now and American Delta parties were on there. So was Hillary Clinton and the Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates. Even Evan McMullin, a long-shot independent conservative running as the anti-Trump, had made it onto the ballot. But not Trump.

Minnesota Republicans held a panicked, late-night meeting to figure out what went wrong — and why no one had noticed until now.

It turns out Minnesota Republicans skipped over one rather banal but important step: electing alternates for the electoral college. Minnesota Republicans elected their members to the electoral college — the people who actually cast the ballot for president and vice president — at their state convention in May. But apparently they forgot to elect alternates for those electors, a necessary step in Minnesota to certify your party gets on the ballot.

Minnesota GOP officials blamed new rules about requiring alternates for the confusion, and others have pointed out the state party's constitution didn't even allow for electing alternates.

But the bottom line is still this: The state Republican Party messed up — and Trump was the one who took the hit.

The state party's leaders got together and appointed alternates to try to fix the problem, and all their paperwork is expected to be in line to have Trump on the ballot this week (the deadline is Monday). But it's not clear that appointing alternates rather than electing them is even allowed under state party rules. Brodkorb told The Fix the party leaves itself vulnerable to legal challenges that could potentially knock Trump off the ballot again.

In Trump Tower 1,200 miles away, the Trump campaign was not happy, says GOP political consultant Jill Vujovich-Laabs.

And we can see why. It'd be pretty embarrassing for a major-party nominee to miss the ballot in a state. It's also not helpful if you want to win the election.

But to some degree, Trump has set himself for this sort of headache. He has largely outsourced the nuts and bolts of running his presidential campaign to the Republican Party, which in turn outsources a lot of the work to its state chapters. In many states, the local Republican Party is the one renting office space, hiring staff and launching get-out-the-vote efforts for Trump. And making sure he gets on the ballot.

It's technically the state party's job in Minnesota to make sure the presidential candidate gets on the ballot. But it's a reflection of the Trump campaign's disorganization that the campaign let this slip. It's a real possibility it would have missed the ballot entirely if Brodkorb hadn't gotten a call and started tweeting about it.

Trump's latest campaign finance filings show he is spending a shockingly small amount on actual campaigning, The Washington Post's Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy reported.

By contrast, Clinton's campaign is leading the charge about where her party should campaign and how much to spend. She plans to transfer something "in the six figures" to state parties in Arizona and Georgia as those states become more competitive, The Post's John Wagner and Ed O'Keefe reported. As a result, she has a lot more control over how her campaign gets run.

The hands-off approach Trump is taking leaves a lot of room for error. In the primaries we saw that manifest with his campaign losing precious delegates to a more organized Ted Cruz team, even as he managed to weather those losses. In the general election, there is no tomorrow.

After hiring two new top campaign executives, his television surrogates seem to be denying that the Republican presidential nominee was making a big change. (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)