Stephanie Grace: Before staring down China, ISIS, others, Donald Trump faces off with ... Louisiana's GOP _lowres

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he gets into his vehicle in Washington, Thursday, March 31, 2016, following a meeting at the Republican National Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

By now, we all should know Donald Trump’s grandiose promises by heart.

The Republicans’ improbable frontrunner is going to stare down China on trade. He’ll make Mexico not only pay for an ever-growing border wall, but like it. He’ll “kick ISIS’s ass,” if we’re to believe Sarah Palin, who all but out-trumped Trump in a truly spectacular endorsement tirade. And, of course, the most divisive candidate in memory will unify a fractured country.

So here’s a question: How can we expect him to do any of those things if he can’t get the better of the Louisiana Republican Party?

Trump’s complaints about how the state chose and awarded convention delegates, like so much else that comes out of his mouth, is a wonder to behold.

To recap: Trump finished in first place in the state’s March 5 GOP primary, narrowly beating second-place finisher Ted Cruz 41.4 percent to 37.8 percent.

Then news reports started to emerge suggesting Cruz could wind up with more delegates than Trump, due to how the party divvies up the spoils. According to a pre-approved formula that allots some delegates based on statewide vote and others based on each candidates’ showing within the six congressional districts, Trump and Cruz each came out with 18 delegates. Marco Rubio, who has since dropped out of the race, landed five, so their votes are now up for grabs and could go for Cruz. So could the additional five delegates who were always going to be uncommitted.

Party leaders also appointed Cruz supporters to some key committee posts that could influence how a floor fight goes down, in the increasingly likely chance that no candidate arrives at the Cleveland convention controlling a majority of delegates. At one point, Trump forces claimed they were shut out of that meeting, but it turns out one of his state co-chairs, Woody Jenkins, was in the room.

Trump’s response to all of this is to cry foul.

First he took to Twitter and threatened to sue. An aide later said the campaign would challenge the process with the Republican National Committee, not in the courts. The campaign’s specific allegations of wrongdoing, in the meantime, remain vague and ever-changing.

That hasn’t stopped Trump from continuing to whine about it. In a town hall appearance on MSNBC this week, he said he was a victim of “arcane rules” in Louisiana and “a lot of nonsense, frankly.”

“That’s not the way the system’s supposed to work,” he claimed.

Actually, it’s exactly how the system was designed to work.

The presidential nominating process is an always-evolving balancing act between party insiders and regular voters.

Over time, the rules have actually shifted to give voters more influence, so Trump is doing better than he might have in previous years.

Before 2016, for example, Louisiana’s Republicans chose many of their delegates through a separate process that had nothing to with the primary. Due to changes in national party rules, though, most Louisiana delegates now have to follow the voters’ wishes on the first ballot, which is a boon for an outsider candidate like Trump.

Nor is the balancing act unique to Republicans.

In 2008, Barack Obama’s campaign made a point of burrowing into the state-by-state rules, figuring out how to maximize his delegate count in each place, and generally outmaneuvering Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

That doesn’t mean Obama cheated; it just means he played a smarter game.

Cruz may bash the president at every turn, but in this campaign, he’s emulating Obama’s tactics and going for a similar result.

It’s called winning, a concept Trump talks about ad nauseam.

Doing it is a whole other thing. And if his experience in Louisiana is any indication, this is just one more instance in which Trump is all bark, no bite.

Stephanie Grace can be contacted at sgrace@theadvocate.com. Follow her on Twitter, @stephgracenola.