Tennessee Republican Party leaders approved a delegate slate on Saturday over the heated objections of Donald Trump’s campaign, which is accusing the state’s insiders of supplanting several supporters with anti-Trump forces, reports Politico.
At a tense meeting of the state party’s executive committee, police removed pro-Trump protesters, and an already heightened sense of confrontation was exacerbated when Trump’s national director of social media tweeted out the personal cell phone of the state party chairman, Ryan Haynes.
“It was a bad day for the Republican Party in this state,” said Trump supporter Mark Winslow, who said he had been removed from a list of delegates agreed upon by Trump’s state director and Haynes on Wednesday, reclassified as an alternate and then removed altogether.
Trump’s backers maintain Haynes engineered the removal of several Trump supporters from a list of at-large Tennessee delegates and replaced with Republicans likely to support Trump’s rivals at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland — if the nomination fight takes more than two ballots to resolve. Tennessee’s delegates to the convention are bound to the results of the state primary — which Trump won — for the first two ballots.
Haynes rejected claims he had done anything improper and insisted there had been no agreement with the Trump campaign on an initial list of delegates. Rather, he noted, Tennessee’s GOP rules give the party the ultimate authority to name delegates, and any guidance from the campaigns is purely advisory.
…Trump may not take the defeat quietly. He recently reacted angrily to similar maneuvering by Ted Cruz’s campaign that allowed it peel off some of his delegates in Louisiana – and his campaign filed a formal challenge to the results there. Trump has previously linked his support for the GOP to whether he considers himself being treated fairly by the party establishment. GOP leaders are worried that efforts to outmaneuver him in the delegate hunt could feed his supporters’ grievances.
“It’s the events of today in Tennessee which justify Mr. Trump saying he has not been treated fair by the Republican Party,” said conservative commentator Scottie Nell Hughes, a Trump campaign surrogate whose husband, Chris Hughes, is among the Trump Tennessee delegates elected directly by voters.