In August of 2015, the Colorado Republican party announced that it would be cancelling its scheduled presidential preference caucus set for the Spring of 2016. The party did this in response to national party rules requiring delegates awarded to candidates through preference caucuses and primaries--that is, elections where candidates are directly voted for--to be pledged to their respective candidates through at least the first round of convention voting.
Humorously, this rule went into effect to try and prevent a Ron Paul-style delegate insurgency threat from occurring. While Paul and Trump share an enemy in the GOPe, they threaten(ed) it different ways. Paul had a cerebral, libertarian message that punched above its popular weight. There was a concern that even though he had a far fewer votes than Romney, many delegates had been co-opted by him and there was a real concern that they could cause a huge headache at the convention, which is why the rules in 2012 were changed to keep Paul off any subsequent balloting if Romney didn't win in the first round. Paul's crowds were impressive, but several of them would fit comfortably inside of many of Trump's venues. Trump's populist message, in contrast, doesn't hit with as much political force as its sheer numbers might otherwise suggest.
Why did the Colorado Republican party choose not to be beholden to the outcome of their scheduled preference caucus? It had recently become apparent that Trump's wide lead in national polling among Republicans wasn't some flash in the pan like the Nate Silvers of the world had assured everyone it would be. Colorado made the move a couple of weeks after the first Republican debate, the one hosted by Fox News that was little more than ambuscade on Trump, designed to cut him down at the knees in his first "presidential" event. The loaded "do you still beat your wife?"-type questions rolled off the tongues of Megan Kelly and Chris Wallace, and the punditry class almost uniformly predicted Trump's imminent demise in the wake of the event.
But then something curious happened. Trump's numbers didn't drop at all. He continued to enjoy more than twice as much support as the second-place guy did. RCP's national polling average through August 2015:
Colorado realized what many other state parties (North Dakota notwithstanding) wished they would've realized several months ago and decided to take the necessary steps to ensure that #NeverTrump wouldn't just be an establishment plea but would actually define Colorado's convention delegation. If Trump was still threatening when Colorado's turn came around, the state party would cut the broad electorate out of the process to cripple him.
Replacing the preference vote was a series of caucuses to choose delegates who would then choose delegates who would then choose delegates (really). At precinct caucuses, which took place on different single days in different districts, participants could vote for delegates to go to district caucuses. Crucially, these delegates were publicly undeclared as to who they'd support. If you were someone not invested in party politics but wanted to vote for a certain candidate, you'd have to do your homework trying to decipher who was unofficially supporting who, and even then you couldn't be sure. The sordid details are here.
The information was there in varying degrees through party channels and campaign networks, however, and party activists naturally knew where to find the information they needed. Those delegates chosen at precinct caucuses then went to district caucuses where they selected some convention delegates (three per district) and also some more state delegates to participate in the statewide convention to choose the state's remaining 13 national convention delegates.
This bemusing, layered process was intentionally designed to be bemusing and layered, of course. Without a strong ground game communicating to potential supporters which delegates were likely to support a specific candidate--and the loyalty of those delegates was something that could be ensured by quid pro quo arrangements with the candidates themselves--and without the help of the state party whose #NeverTrump sentiments were blatantly obvious before they were made embarrassingly explicit (see below), the chances of the rank-and-file figuring out how to support an outsider they liked were slim, just as the party wanted them to be.
In the predictable protestations of and complaints levied against Colorado, I've not seen any apologists for the convoluted process give a single good reason as to why what transpired was objectively preferable to a regular preference caucus. All they can say in response is that there was a caucus process that occurred and regular voters were allowed to participate (never mind that they had no clear way to figure out who or what they were voting for!).
In short, this process was to a regular preference caucus what a regular preference caucus is to a primary. Candidates who have the most zealous, activist supporters have a relative advantage in a regular preference caucus compared to a primary, and this is doubly or more so the case in a process like the ones that took place in Colorado and North Dakota. This will be the future. The Republican party is learning how dangerous it is to allow its voters to determine who the party's presidential nominee will be.
The Colorado Republican party admitted what every objective observer already knew:
At this point some people will interject that Trump only has himself to blame for allowing this to happen. The Cruz campaign did the requisite work to build a communication network within the state to alert supporters of which precinct delegates they needed to vote for. Cruz contacted the aspiring delegates--most (all?) of whom are either current, former, or hopeful state and local Republican party officials--and alternatively talked and bribed them into backing Cruz. Trump, whose total campaign staff numbers in the double-digits (Hillary Clinton has 765 on her payroll), was totally outmatched when it came to ground game logistics.
That's undeniably true. It is not, however, something that regular American are impressed by. To the contrary, it's something that they find off-putting, more of a bug than a feature. It's sneaky and corrupt, bemusing and byzantine. Most Americans don't want the insider who has all the right political connections and who, through a long career in politics, has learned all the right tactics to employ in an effort to out-technocrat the other guys to claw his way to the top. At least not if he fails to appeal to most of them, anyway. This seems to be especially true in this presidential election cycle.
Which leads me scratching my head at Cruz's victory remarks. The prudent thing to say would've been something along the lines of "I would have preferred a regular vote of the people to determine who Colorado supports at the convention. I'm confident I would've demonstrated that I'd earned that support if a vote had taken place. But since the rules were beyond my control, I had to adapt to what was in front of me. I did that, and I want to thank all of you who participated for my victory in this great state."
Instead, Cruz mocked Trump for crying foul while playing his victory up as seven separate victories (since the different districts voted on different days!). Cruz's supporters will like that, but for most people on the outside looking in, it does look foul, quite foul indeed. Beware hubris, Ted. Or as Cruz might prefer, pride comes before the fall. Since we're on the subject, these GOPe 'victories' are rapidly becoming ones a certain Pyrrus of Epirus might wearily recognize.
See, you can mock your enemies from atop the walls of the city you hold. You can spit at them and launch projectiles their way. You can afford to do this even if the besiegers outnumber you, at least for awhile. But if those besiegers manage to break through your fortifications and make their way inside the walls, where their numerical advantage puts you on the losing side of the conflict, well, they may remember that harassment. They may even decide it's reason enough to have the streets of your city run knee-deep in the blood of those who mocked them.
I've seen some variations on the idea that it cost Trump a measly 34 delegates to strip away any and all pretense of Cruz being some kind of outsider. He's a ruthless insider who rubs many of his colleagues the wrong way, but his roots are buried more deeply inside the party apparatus than anyone else's are. His machinations in several states that forego pledging convention delegates from preference voting attest to that.
In reality, it cost Trump far fewer delegates than 34. Colorado is right in the middle of the country's cuck corridor. Statewide results would've been similar to those in neighboring Kansas or Utah, where Cruz won a delegate majority and the entire haul, respectively.
Bring on New York, where more people will vote than did in Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Colorado combined. Time for the cuckservatives to get curb stomped.