The presumptive GOP nominee is building a massive whip team in preparation for a possible floor fight.
Donald Trump’s campaign is preparing a sophisticated operation to fight back against resurgent plans by recalcitrant conservatives to deny him the nomination at next month’s Republican National Convention.
In a Tuesday night conference call led partly by Trump’s top adviser Paul Manafort and including 200 staffers and volunteers, Trump’s senior convention aides sketched out a whip operation led by a half-dozen operatives with deep convention experience. The effort will rely on a team of 150 volunteers and paid staff to keep the convention’s 2,472 delegates in line, and it will utilize a database with information on many of the delegates.
The plans laid out during the call suggest that Trump’s campaign is working to reverse a narrative that it has lacked organization, and the planning also indicates that Trump’s aides are taking seriously efforts by his GOP opponents to out-maneuver him on the convention floor.
The campaign is planning to reveal an additional eight “regional whip” leaders in the coming days, sources familiar with the operation said. Each will oversee seven of the 56 states and territories sending delegations to Cleveland.
The team will be overseen primarily by Doug Davenport, a former lobbying associate of Manafort, who was brought on board by the Trump campaign in April to court supportive delegates.
Mike McSherry, a veteran Republican operative and former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, will handle operations pertaining to three crucial convention committees. That includes the rules committee, where hardcore Trump resisters intend to force a vote on a plan that could snatch the nomination away from Trump.
Trump campaign attorney Bill McGinley, who was counsel to the 2012 convention’s rules committee, will handle all of the campaign’s legal operations at the convention. And Brian Jack, who helped identify and elect supportive delegates at state conventions and caucuses around the country during the spring, will help gather intelligence on the delegates attending the convention to aid the whip team’s efforts.
It’s a reality check for the grassroots organizers of an attempt to stop Trump. While they cobble together a list of rank-and-file delegates willing to stand in Trump’s way, they’ll be up against an experienced and extensive operation — backed by the Republican National Committee — that will have eyes and ears on all convention activity.
Trump’s team is already building a database with detailed profiles of most of the delegates attending the convention and will spend the next few weeks reaching out to nearly all of them, seeking assurances of support and ensuring that any needs or concerns are heard.
Members of the whip team will be assigned a group of specific delegates and will be tasked with entering information about each into the database, Jack said on the call, according to someone who listened in. In order to beef up the database, Jack recommended whip team members place phone calls to delegates to learn about them and become “the campaign’s point of contact to them,” according to the person who listened in. Jack added that the team was going to schedule trainings “so that we can learn how best to use this database and download the information that you already know and the information you’ll learn.”
Anti-Trump delegates, meanwhile, have yet to compile even a complete roster of members of the convention Rules Committee, let alone the entire attendance list.
Davenport told participants on the call that the whip team leaders were already going “24/7” but that they would set up operations in Cleveland on July 5, six days before delegates arrive for convention committee meetings, and remain onsite until July 21, when the convention closes.
According to the person who listened in, Davenport announced that the campaign’s caucus team operation, which will lead outreach to each state’s delegation, will be headed by Mike Conforti and Pat Brady, both convention veterans who years ago worked at Manafort’s lobbying firm.
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