Texas Sen. Ted Cruz took his delegate-by-delegate strategy aimed at thwarting a Donald Trump presidential nomination on Saturday to the least populous U.S. state on Saturday, while the billionaire front-runner focused on running up the vote in Tuesday’s primary in his home state of New York.
Cruz’s well-organized campaign is trying to pick up pockets of delegates to deny Trump the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination outright at the Republican National Convention in July. Cruz’s hopes for the nomination rest on a contested convention where pledged delegates will be free to switch to other candidates starting with the second round of balloting.
That’s what brought Cruz out West on Saturday, where he swept all 14 delegates up for grabs at Wyoming’s state Republican convention, handing Trump yet another loss in a string of defeats in Western states.
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Saturday’s sweep for Cruz follows his victory last month in Wyoming, when he scored 9 of 12 available delegates at county conventions. Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who later quit the race, each won one delegate last month in Wyoming while one remained undecided.
Trump still leads the overall delegate race with 747 to Cruz’s 559. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has 144.
Cruz was the only candidate to address the convention in Casper on Saturday, promising to end what he called President Barack Obama’s “war on coal” if he’s elected. Wyoming is the nation’s leading coal-producing state.
Trump largely bypassed the state. In a telephone interview Saturday on “Fox and Friends,” he said: “I don’t want to waste millions of dollars going out to Wyoming many months before to wine and dine and to essentially pay off these people, because a lot of it’s a payoff, you understand that?”
Trump’s defeat in Wyoming follows his shutout earlier this month in Colorado, where he failed to pick up a single delegate of the 34 in play. He has urged his supporters to protest the results to state officials in that state.
Campaigning in New York on Saturday, Trump said, “I guess I’m complaining ’cause it’s not fair to the people.” In Wyoming and Colorado, he said, “the people never got a chance to vote.”
Cruz, in an interview with The Associated Press after his speech in Casper, said Trump’s decision not to campaign in Wyoming is telling. “The reason he decided not to show up is he recognized he couldn’t win, he couldn’t earn the support of conservatives in Wyoming,” Cruz said.
On the issue of coal, Wyoming has seen hundreds of coal industry layoffs in recent months as several of the nation’s largest coal companies have filed for federal bankruptcy protections.
Calling America, “the Saudi Arabia of coal,” Cruz promised to roll back federal regulations he says hamper coal production.
Cruz also told the crowd he was “pretty sure, here in Wyoming, y’all define gun control the same way we do in Texas — and that is hitting what you’re aiming at.”
Trump was focusing on New York where he was looking for a big victory to grab the lion’s share of the 95 delegates at stake. He was holding campaign events across the state over the weekend.
On the Democratic side, neither candidate had events planned in New York on Saturday. Polls show Hillary Clinton with a double-digit lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the state which she formerly represented as a U.S. senator. Sanders needs an upset win in New York to make inroads into Clinton’s 200-plus lead in pledged delegates,
Sanders met briefly with Pope Francis Saturday morning at the papal residence at the Vatican, saying it was a “real honor” to call on “one of the extraordinary figures” in the world. The pope said his brief encounter with the U.S. presidential candidate was a sign of good manners, “nothing more,” and hardly evidence of interfering in American politics.
The brief encounter came a day after Sanders addressed a Vatican conference dealing with his lifelong passions of economic and social justice.
The trip gave Sanders a moment on the world stage, putting him alongside priests, bishops, academics and two South American presidents at the Vatican conference. Sanders has been at a disadvantage during his campaign against Clinton, the former secretary of state, on issues of foreign policy.
Before returning to the United States and resuming his campaigning in New York, Sanders said he had the chance to tell the pope that “I was incredibly appreciative of the incredible role that he is playing in this planet in discussing issues about the need for an economy based on morality, not greed.”
Clinton was in California for a pair of big-dollar fundraisers hosted by George and Amal Clooney, with some donors agreeing to raise or donate six-figure sums. California doesn’t hold its primary until June 7.
She also told a cheering crowd at a Los Angeles rally on Saturday that if elected she would push Congress to raise the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage. She credited California for recently enacting the nation’s highest statewide minimum wage — $15 an hour by 2022.
To date, Clinton has 1,289 delegates from primaries and caucuses to Sanders’ 1,045. When including superdelegates, or party officials who can support any candidate, Clinton has 1,758 to Sanders’ 1,076.