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Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMan sentenced to nearly four years for running scam Trump, Biden PACs Meadows says Trump's blood oxygen level was dangerously low when he had COVID-19 Trump endorses David Perdue in Georgia's governor race MORE’s campaign is giving additional responsibilities to newly-hired strategist Paul Manafort, it announced Thursday.
The organizational realignment signals the Republican presidential front-runner is seriously preparing for a contested convention.
Manafort’s promotion to convention manager comes only one week after Trump hired the veteran GOP strategist to lead his delegate efforts.
In his new role, Manafort will oversee all the functions related to the nomination process, from courting delegates and assisting in getting them elected at state conventions to the nuts and bolts of preparing for a floor fight at the national convention in Cleveland in July.
“The nomination process has reached a point that requires someone familiar with the complexities involved in the final stages,” Trump said in a statement. “I am organizing these responsibilities under someone who has done this job successfully in many campaigns.”
Manafort managed the convention floor for former President Gerald Ford, who defeated Ronald Reagan at an open convention in 1976. He later managed the convention floor for Reagan in 1980, George H.W. Bush in 1988 and Bob Dole in 1996.
Manafort will also lead Trump’s outreach to Republicans in Washington, D.C. The Trump campaign is opening an office in the nation’s capital next week, as he seeks to make inroads with a GOP establishment that has been skeptical, and in some cases outright hostile, to their party’s front-runner.
The promotion also comes amid several media reports of disagreements between Manafort and embattled campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
Lewandowski has been charged with simple battery for allegedly grabbing a reporter, leading to speculation that he might have a diminished role going forward.
Manafort said he will be “working closely” with Lewandowski and deputy campaign manager Michael Glassner in his new role.
Trump’s statement indicated that Lewandowski would continue to play a role atop the organization.
“This will allow the rest of my team to deal with the increasing needs of a national campaign for both the pre-Convention phase and most importantly, the general election,” Trump said.
The campaign said several other new hires and internal promotions could be expected in the weeks ahead.
Trump could still win the nomination outright and avoid a contested convention, but a big victory by Cruz on Tuesday in Wisconsin has made that path more difficult. He needs to win about 60 percent of the remaining outstanding delegates to reach the 1,237 needed for a majority.
Trump’s restructuring comes as the Cruz campaign has flexed its organizational muscle to get supporters elected as delegates who could help deliver him the nomination at a contested convention.
States like Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota and Pennsylvania are holding contests that will either send unbound delegates to the convention or will elect delegates who have declared a preference for one of the candidates.
That will put the onus on the candidates to get their supporters elected as delegates, and so far, the Cruz campaign has proven better at this.
Cruz was the only GOP candidate to address the state convention in North Dakota last week, and his campaign declared victory there, claiming that a strong majority of delegates elected support the Texas senator.
Colorado will hold its state convention this weekend, and once again, Cruz will be the only candidate there in person. According to media reports, the six delegates who have been elected so far all support Cruz for president.
In Wyoming, nine of the 12 delegates elected so far have said they support Cruz, and he’s also expected to take the lion’s share of the remaining 14 delegates at the state convention over the weekend.
Trump’s weakness in recruiting delegates that could help him beyond the first ballot at an open convention came into full view in Louisiana last month. Trump won the popular vote there, but Cruz might take home more delegates because he appears to have won over the five unbound delegates in the state.
That scenario could play out again in Pennsylvania later this month. Trump leads in the polls there, but 54 of the 71 delegates will be unbound heading into the convention.