Cruz Sweeps Colorado as Trump Campaign Issues Error-Filled Ballots

Benjy Sarlin
Ted Cruz speaks during a campaign stop at King's Christian Bookstore in Boone, Iowa January 4, 2016.
Mark Kauzlarich | Reuters

Ted Cruz finished Colorado's delegate fight the way he started it: With overwhelming victory.

Donald Trump finished it the way he started as well: With a disorganized and frustrated campaign plagued by mistakes.

Cruz took all 13 of the delegates up for grabs on Saturday to complete a clean sweep of the state. Delegates endorsed by his campaign swept all seven Congressional District conventions held over the last week as well, which added another 21 delegates. Another three slots are reserved for state party officials.

"Today was another resounding victory for conservatives, Republicans, and Americans who care about the future of our country," the Cruz campaign said in a statement Saturday night.

Trump's aides set expectations at rock bottom heading into Saturday's contest, citing the state's unfavorable demographics and a complicated process that empowers local party activists to vote on delegates.

Supporters in Colorado nonetheless said they were frustrated with the campaign's chaotic and uncommunicative campaign, which failed to reach basic levels of competence.

"We could have had some things going, but the campaign decided to not put resources here," Becky Mizel, a former Pueblo County GOP chair and Trump delegate candidate, told NBC News.

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On Saturday, Trump backers passed out flyers at the convention site with official campaign slate of 13 delegates and 13 alternates accompanied by their three-digit number position on the 600-plus person ballot. Seven of the names, however, directed people to the wrong number and one delegate's name was misspelled. Other candidates did not have errors on their slates.

In one case, an erroneous number corresponded with a Cruz supporter. A second flyer handed out by the Trump campaign contained four mismatched names and numbers.

Among the names listed incorrectly on both flyers: Becky Mizel.

It was the second major error concerning campaign materials this week. On Thursday, a Trump slate of three names in the 7th Congressional District convention contained two that weren't listed on the ballot. The campaign's state director, Patrick Davis, said they failed to pay the necessary fees to qualify.

Trump's campaign wasn't the only one who made mistakes, though. Colorado Republican chairman Steve House announced several corrections to the ballot from the stage, including multiple names that were on the ballot twice, none of which affected any candidate's official slate. One Trump alternate, Jerome Parks, was not on the numbers-only ballot at #379 — instead the ballot listed #378 twice.

"They're not in there!" Trump supporter Karen Kasel said to herself in frustration as she tried to find #379 on her ballot in the hallway.

There were also discrepancies between delegate guides posted to the state party's website and printed materials distributed by the state GOP. Mizel, for example, was listed on a delegate list on the party website as number #610, but a brochure from the state GOP listing delegates alphabetically cut off at #588.

Trump campaign aide Alan Cobb accused the Colorado GOP of altering its delegate lists at different points, leaving them in the lurch as it changed, and threatened to dispute the results over its ballot inconsistencies.

"We'll do whatever it takes to protect the legitimacy of our support in Colorado," Cobb told NBC News. "Clearly there are some serious issues with the ballot and balloting.

A spokesman for the Colorado GOP said they were looking into the matter.

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In another mix-up, the party's Twitter account appeared to be hacked in the aftermath of the results, tweeting "We did it. #NeverTrump." A spokesman for the party said that their account had been taken over and the tweet was not authorized.

Cruz's all-volunteer Colorado campaign distributed accurate slates not only on flyers, but also on bright orange t-shirts. Groups like Gun Owners of America that endorsed Cruz distributed their own materials backing the same slate.

Dustin Olson, a delegate whip for Cruz, manned a "persuasion team" in the halls of the arena. The heavily pro-Cruz crowd needed little convincing, Olson said, but he worked hard to make sure no one split the vote by supporting Cruz delegates who weren't on the campaign's official slate.

Cruz personally addressed the state convention on Saturday while Trump campaign and Ohio Governor John Kasich supplied campaign surrogates on their behalf.

"It's easy to talk about making America great again, you can even print that on a baseball cap," Cruz said. "The real question is do you understand the principles and values that made America great in the first place?"

Afterwards Cruz told NBC affiliate KUSA that Trump's absence "illustrates that when it comes to the grassroots, Donald has a very hard time competing."

Speaking on behalf of Trump, policy adviser Stephen Miller devoted nearly all his remarks to recounting Americans who had been killed by undocumented immigrants.

"The special interests in DC who have controlled our political process for 40 years, they don't care about you, they don't care about your family, and they don't care about your security," Miller said.

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New Hampshire Senator John Sununu represented Kasich, who he described as "tough," "conservative" and a "fighter" who was willing to take on his own party to balance the budget in the 1990s.

The Colorado results come as the race increasingly hinges on a complex war over delegate selection that requires foresight and grassroots organization to win.

Unlike Colorado, most of these fights are taking place in states where voters have already weighed in on how many delegates are bound to each candidate, but where the state party has a separate process for choosing the actual delegates.

The results are crucial because most delegates are free to vote for any candidate they choose in a contested convention that goes beyond the first ballot.

Several states held delegate selection events on Saturday, with Cruz's campaign continuing his string of success in most cases but falling pretty to a surprise alliance between Trump and Kasich in one state.

In Iowa, Cruz installed 11 supportive delegates out of 12 slots available across four party meetings on Saturday, according to the Des Moines Register.

In Virginia's 9th Congressional District, which Trump won with 47% of the vote, Cruz supporters took two delegate slots to one for Trump.

In South Carolina, where all delegates are bound to Trump on the first ballot, Cruz secured three delegate seats out of six up for grabs in two districts on Saturday while Trump won just one. Two more were uncommitted.

In Michigan, however, Trump and Kasich supporters appeared to team up to deny Cruz any spots on the important convention committees that will determine rules and credentials for delegates. Trump supporters took five of eight slots, while Kasich supporters took the other three.

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