ARVADA, CO -- This moment has been months in the making.
Ted Cruz backers have filled all 12 of the delegate slots at stake today in Colorado, swiftly navigating the complex process to consolidate support around his candidacy. His supporters now fill all 21 of the state’s allocated slots so far.
But backers say today’s thumping of rival campaigns has been long-awaited.
In most states, delegates are bound to candidates according to how voters at a primary or caucus cast their ballots. But in Colorado, local and state party leaders and volunteers choose their national delegates -- and often who they will support at the convention. The remaining 13 delegates will be chosen Saturday at the Colorado State Convention.
This means that the selection of delegates and who they are will vote for lies in the hands of local party leaders at the precinct, county and congressional district levels.
Potential delegates were spotted gathering in the DoubleTree Hotel bar in Colorado Springs late Thursday night. Previously strangers now turned friends, they shared their political views over glasses of bourbon, speaking passionately about who they supported for president.
Just across the hotel lobby, a small group of Ted Cruz backers huddled together, putting the finishing touches on their efforts to become national convention delegates, with no sign of sleep in sight.
Back in August, Cruz backer Regina Thomson began deploying volunteers to call loyal Republicans in the state’s largest counties to recruit potential delegates and rally support. “There’s no magic sauce to it,” she told ABC News. “It’s really just following the process.”
“We’re an Olympic team, but that means each one of us needs to be an Olympian,” said Melanie Sturm, a delegate for Cruz who created her own campaign literature and booth to run for a spot at the national convention.
Potential delegates had been sought out or vetted by Cruz campaign officials in the state, getting coached on how to make campaign materials on three conference calls going back to March, Cruz delegate Brita Horn told ABC News.
But Cruz’s success in Colorado is not because his campaign has dedicated resources in the state. In fact, the campaign has no paid staffers in Colorado and only two national staffers in Colorado for the weekend -- Houston-based regional political director David Sawyer and Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Decorated with Cruz stickers and signs, Cruz supporters packed into the hallways of the DoubleTree Hotel early Friday morning for a day of district-level meetings to choose national delegates.
This comes in stark contrast to the thin Trump and John Kasich support in Colorado.
Top Trump aides have admitted that they have no expectations in Colorado and concede they don't expect to do well in the state.
“The process started six to nine months ago and we just started a couple weeks ago,” one Trump senior adviser told ABC News, admitting Trump was playing a game of catch up.
And Alan Cobb, a Trump senior adviser focused on delegate strategy, said it would be a win if Trump received any delegates in the state.
In fact, many lead members of Trump’s delegate team are not on the ground, with the Trump volunteers running the show, admitting it’s been hard to compete with Cruz in the state. Trump campaign volunteer Becky Mizel called the process an “insider ballgame,” adding that “people don’t even know precincts exist.”
Trump will skip the Colorado State Convention this weekend, with Cruz being the only candidate scheduled to make an appearance here on Saturday.