California Counts

A collaboration between Capital Public Radio, KQED, KPCC and KPBS to cover the 2016 elections in California.

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Trump Faces "Monumental Task" Organizing California Delegates

Jae C. Hong / AP

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens during a news conference as he is joined by individuals who identify themselves as family members of victims who were killed, Friday, July 10, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Jae C. Hong / AP

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has picked a veteran GOP strategist to run his California campaign just weeks before vote-by-mail ballots go out, leaving his campaign with a lot of work to do in very little time.

Trump named Tim Clark as his California state director Monday. “I am pleased to bring Tim on board to organize what is a very important state,“ Trump said in a statement released by his campaign. “I know he will be an asset to the team and ultimately deliver a win in California.’’

“We intend to win 53 out of 53 congressional seats and deliver 172 delegates to the national convention for Mr. Trump,” Clark told Capital Public Radio in an interview Monday. ”We recognize there’s gonna be areas of the state where Mr. Trump is carrying a very large lead and other areas where his lead could be reinforced by volunteers and some other efforts. And we’ll certainly target very carefully.”

Winning every delegate won’t be easy. Polls show Trump leading in California – but not in all parts of the state. And he doesn’t just need to win each district to win all 172 delegates – he also needs to identify the delegates: three in every congressional district, from sparsely populated rural areas to liberal big cities.

(Related: How California awards presidential primary delegates)

Putting together a delegate slate “is something that we will work on,“ Clark says, adding that Trump already has thousands of volunteers in the state. “I imagine a lot of our best volunteers will end up being our best delegates. And I think that we’ll definitely have a pool much larger than 172, and from that we’ll find our 172.”

“It’s gonna be a monumental task,” says Hector Barajas, a California Republican strategist who’s not working on the presidential campaign. He says Trump should have started his delegate hunt months ago, as rival Ted Cruz did. Now, the Secretary of State’s deadline for Republican candidates to submit their delegate slates is less than four weeks away.

“They’re gonna have to go district by district to find not just three individuals per congressional districts but three individuals who will stay with Trump should it go to a contested convention, and should it go to two or three different ballots,” Barajas says.

Delegates will also have to pay thousands of dollars in travel and hotel costs out of their own pockets.

Despite all that, Barajas says, Trump can't be counted out.

“We’ve discounted Trump so many times,“ he says, “and right now he still remains a frontrunner.”

The question is whether Trump will surprise everyone again.