In addition to winning more primaries, more convention delegates and 2 million more votes than any other Republican presidential candidate running this year, billionaire developer Donald Trump has won a significant national following with his repeated pledge, as a shrewd negotiator, “to beat China, Japan and Mexico at trade.”

Trump offers a simple explanation for the problem: “Their leaders are much smarter than our leaders.” But they’re not smarter than the no-nonsense negotiator Trump: “I beat China all the time.”

If that is true, then why has candidate Trump been so publicly and griping about his campaign’s having been cheated by the unfair delegate selection rules of the Colorado Republican Party?

“The system, folks, is rigged. It’s a rigged, disgusting, dirty system,” Trump complains.

Let’s get this straight: The previously unintimidating Colorado Republican Party – which in the past 42 years has managed to elect exactly one GOP governor and which twice lost to Democrat Barack Obama – by simply awarding its 34 national convention delegates to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has hoodwinked Trump, the man whose election, he himself has assured us, would be guaranteed to make both Beijing and Tokyo go nervous in the knees.

To be fair, Trump’s criticisms of the delegate selection rules are not without merit. In Colorado, far less than 1 percent of the state’s 900,000 registered Republicans even were able to participate in the arcane process.

In both South Carolina and Georgia, where Trump won solid primary victories, GOP insiders have been organizing efforts to drop support for Trump after the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

None of this is new stuff. Treachery is no stranger to American party politics. But Trump, the self-styled no-nonsense tough guy, could never get rolled, let alone victimized, by these minor-league party bosses, could he?

After all, if you can’t outsmart a Republican county chairman in Durango or Kankakee, why should we ever believe you would be able to go toe-to-toe with the wily Mexicans, Japanese or Chinese?

But all is not lost for the Trump candidacy. My onetime political sparring partner Patrick J. Buchanan – from whose 1992 campaign platform, especially on trade and immigration, Trump has borrowed – offered one imaginative solution to confound the Republican establishment, which, in the political equivalent of a shotgun marriage, now backs Cruz, whom it actively dislikes, against Trump, whom it both loathes and fears.

Buchanan’s answer: an alliance between Trump and Cruz. Between them, he says, they should control a solid majority of the Cleveland delegates, and because there is a GOP rule that prevents a candidate from being nominated at the convention unless that candidate has won at least eight primaries or caucuses, no “white knight'” sponsored by the party establishment could be nominated in Cleveland – only Trump or Cruz could be the nominee.

And on Sean Hannity’s show on the Fox News Channel, Buchanan added a wrinkle for the 2016 ticket: “Go with Trump and Cruz … I think that ticket would set the country on fire.”

More unlikely political unions than Trump-Cruz have probably been arranged, but I’m frankly at a loss to recall one.

– Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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