What's going on inside the Trump campaign's hunt for delegates?
Having been a part of 10 presidential campaigns, I can give you a pretty good idea.
- Identification: The first phase is finding and identifying each of the delegates. Names, emails, addresses, phone numbers. This process is ongoing and changing right up to the Republican National Convention.
- Categorize: Who do they support and how firm is that support? This, too, is an ongoing process with various categories from 1-10. "Never Trump" to "True Believer."
- The alter-delegate team: This involves assigning a person to be the "alter-delegate" of each delegate. Their job is to get inside the head of the delegate. Who are they? What do they believe? Who is their favorite college football team, restaurant? What is their faith? This should create a bulging file that gets bigger each day.The alter-delegates will be separated into groups based on their categories, with leaders and facilitators for each of the groups. For example, the "True Believers" will be dealing with a different set of problems and goals than the "Leaners."
- The Care Package: Every delegate should receive a "care package." It usually includes an autographed photo of the candidate and an autographed copy of his book and from time to time auto-penned notes created and approved by senior staff. "Feeling good about Pennsylvania, hopeful for Indiana."
- Birthday cards: Signed with the auto-pen, these should go out for every delegate up to the convention and general election. It can be expanded to the children and spouse and parents of the delegate. If you win the White House, they will be carried into the Political Affairs Department.
- Delegate Concierge Services: Each delegate will be contacted by their alter-delegate in the campaign or supervisor, and will be offered a phone number to call 24/7 to help them with special needs. Hotel rooms, recommended restaurants, ideas and suggestions for the campaign.Every communication from a delegate should have a response.
- Recommended notes and calls: Each alter-delegate will recommend personal notes from the candidate for special issues. "Deeply sorry to hear of your mother's passing, this must be a tough time. We are praying for you."The candidate should have a one paragraph brief before calling delegates. He should have a list of several calls to make each day until everyone has heard from him multiple times.
- Turning strategies. This is the real work. Each alter-delegate, working with their supervisors and their fellow alter-delegates, should develop a strategy for moving a delegate to the next higher category.
- Surrogate sugar: Some delegates will have been early supporters of Chris Christie, Ben Carson and other candidates who have come on-board the Trump train. They should get "care packages" from their early favorite, notes and phone calls. Alter-delegates should recommend scripts and ideas for leveraging this surrogate power.
- Triangulation: Alter-delegates should search Facebook to look for Trump supporters among the friends and relatives of the delegates and enlist their help and suggestions for turning their friend into a "True Believer."Of course, the 80-20 rule will dictate how this operation progresses. Some alter-delegates will have very little impact while others will be promoted to handling 10 delegates or an entire category, such as "2012 Rick Santorum delegates."
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Finally, the RNC is not the end. It is only the beginning. Wining presidential campaigns will go after the opposition delegates after the convention is over, making them feel part of the team, giving them titles, listening to their ideas.
In 1988, Bush 41 campaign strategist Lee Atwater brought back to Washington all of the opposition delegates. When they entered the closed-door, day-long meetings they were angry and resistant. By the second day of this marathon they were laughing together. Loyalist were almost jealous. Compare this to the 2012 election cycle where opposition delegates were harassed by the winning campaign even after the convention was over.
Outsiders and some of my less experienced journalist friends will suspect that this scenario is a bit overdone. But having been inside many campaigns, I can assure you that anything someone like me can conceive of in 15 minutes is far less sophisticated than the real operation that has now been underway for many weeks.