Being Moody

With Trump's criticisms echoing, RNC huddles at Florida resort

Story highlights

  • The RNC's members huddled this week for their final gathering before the national party convention
  • The week's meeting came as Donald Trump has called the GOP's nominating process "rigged," "corrupt" and "a disgrace"

Hollywood, Florida (CNN)Given the high drama of this presidential primary, one can sympathize with the Republican National Committee for holding its annual spring meeting at a resort advertised as "an elegant retreat from the realities of day to day existence."

The committee's members --168 Republicans who traveled here from every state and territory in the country -- huddled this week at the beachside Diplomat Resort and Spa for their final gathering before the national party convention in July.
    Over three days, members discussed plans for the upcoming convention, debated privately about the faults and merits of the three remaining presidential candidates and listened to presentations from campaigns for why they would be the best contenders to win the general election in November. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich both made personal appeals before the party members -- who also serve as convention delegates -- should support them, while Donald Trump sent a team of advisers to make his case.
    The week's event was not all business, of course. Members also spent the week wining and dining with guests and lobbyists. On the first night, RNC members boarded a five-story luxury yacht called the Grand Floridian -- the same one Kim Kardashian sailed on just a few years ago -- for an evening cruise. (Barred from attending, CNN reporters dutifully trailed the floating party in a small chase boat.)
    The week's meeting came as Trump, the party's presidential front-runner, spent weeks traveling the country calling the GOP's nominating process "rigged," "corrupt" and "a disgrace." Trump has argued that even if he doesn't secure the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination before the convention that the party should still reward him with the title because he received the most popular votes.
    But despite the constant flogging the RNC has received from Trump, members here defended their system.
    "It isn't rigged. We have made the rules and there's a very careful process for changing those rules," said Alaska Committeewoman Cynthia Henry. "So people who say that isn't fair don't have any credibility to me."
    Many, however, responded with a collective eye-roll to Trump's rhetoric.
    "I think that's Donald Trump being Donald Trump. He's an insurgent candidate trying to appeal on a populist level. I don't take it that he really means it, " said Henry Barbour, a party national committeeman from Mississippi who has said in the past it would be "very hard" for him to vote for Trump. "It can't be rigged if the rules have been public and transparent for nearly a year and we've done it this way since 1856."
    Others even offered guidance to Trump, who, despite his complaining seems to be getting the message: He recently hired a new team of veteran political operatives skilled in the ways accruing delegates.
    "This is my advice for Mr. Trump. Be Mr. Art of the Deal," said Nicolee Ambrose, referring to Trump's book. "It is up to you to win those delegate votes, vote for vote. Fight for that."