Two days after Donald Trump won in four of five primaries, efforts to knock the frontrunner from his perch limp forward.
But the impact of the money and time spent knocking Trump are coming into question after the real estate mogul surged ahead of Ted Cruz by more than 250 delegates.
Katie Packer, a Republican strategist who founded Our Principles PAC to hinder Trump’s success, said she is evaluating the path forward.
“We’re having conversations with donors, gauging the interest in moving ahead,” Packer told NBC News.
A group of conservatives led by Erick Erickson, editor of Red State, met Thursday and pledged to continue their efforts to prevent Trump from winning the nomination.
A signed statement by attendees said they call “for a unity ticket that unites the Republican Party.” That unity ticket would preferably include Sen. Ted Cruz, who is second behind Trump in the delegate count, and a presidential contender who dropped out already. But the group did not discount including someone not in the race like Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney.
If a unity ticket fails to garner a majority of the delegates in the primary process, the group agrees, “We encourage all former Republican candidates not currently supporting Trump to unite against him and encourage all candidates to hold their delegates on the first ballot.”
“Lastly, we intend to keep our options open as to other avenues to oppose Donald Trump,” the statement said, providing no other details on what those other options might be.
In a sign that efforts to #StopTrump are disorganized and decentralized, at least one of the two groups who has spent money trying to take down Trump, Club For Growth, was not at the meeting and found out about it through media reports.
Still, the Club for Growth, has decided to continue on with its efforts to stop Trump. After an internal meeting Wednesday, the group decided to launch a $200,000 ad buy in Utah, which holds its primary Tuesday. The ad uses an interview of Trump saying he supports universal health care and that “the government’s gonna pay for it.”
The goals of the effort have changed, however. Realizing that Trump is the clear leader and no candidate left in the race can surpass him, they are working to ensure that Turmp fails to reach the 1,237 delegates needed to become the presumptive nominee. That outcome would lead to a contested convention.
“Going forward, looking at the numbers, we think it’s still very possible to keep Trump below 1,237, and it’s equally possible for Ted Cruz to amass a large chunk of delegates, and that would likely lead to an open convention, which is, in some ways, analogous to a run-off,” Doug Sachtleben, communications director for Club for Growth, told NBC News.
Packer with Our Principles PAC agrees with that strategy, saying, “I think that we’re still on track to prevent him from getting 1,237 delegates.”
The Club has spent $7.5 million trying to stop Trump in seven states. They say their effort has had an impact in Iowa and Oklahoma helped to lead to Trump’s defeat. They also placed ads in Missouri and Arkansas, places Trump barely won.
But the group also spent $2 million in Florida as well as in Illinois and South Carolina, places that Trump won handily.
And in a shocking development, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is not just endorsing Cruz, he’s holding a fundraiser for him. Graham and Cruz are at odds on many issues, including government surveillance, foreign policy and immigration.