The dealmaker, however, is not leaving anything to chance.
While Trump publicly dismisses talk of a battle in Cleveland, he is quietly assembling a team of seasoned operatives to manage a contested convention. Their strategy, NBC has learned, is to convert delegates in the crucial 40 days between the end of the primaries and the convention - while girding for a floor fight in Cleveland if necessary.
The outreach is already underway.
"We are talking to tons of delegates," says Barry Bennett, a former Ben Carson campaign manager now leading the delegate strategy for Trump.
Under Republican Party rules, a candidate who wins a majority of 1,237 delegates during the primaries clinches the presidential nomination. If no candidate wins that majority, delegates vote on the nominee at an open convention.
Bennett says the campaign has planned two distinct phases for winning in an open convention.
First, there is a window to lock down delegate commitments between the last primary on June 7 and the convention start on July 18.
"You've got 40 days between the last primary and the convention," Bennett says, "to go woo the appropriate number of unbound delegates." It's a long time if the gap is small.
"You still have a chance to put together 50 or 75 delegates to win on the first ballot," Bennett says, "that's Phase One."
The campaign could obtain signed, public commitments from those delegates in June — signaling to the rest of the party that Trump will be the nominee. Sources in the Trump campaign say this approach thwarts a key premise of the "Stop Trump" effort, which assumes a long floor fight if Trump finishes the primaries without a delegate majority.
The campaign believes, however, that it could line up those personal commitments from the remaining delegates. Then it would march into Cleveland with an orderly victory on the first ballot.
The math shows that this is an achievable path.
There are now 323 delegates currently up for grabs on the first ballot. These are delegates who backed Rubio and Carson or hail from states that don't bind their vote, (such as Colorado and North Dakota).
RELATED: Donald Trump's potential running mates:
Donald Trump's potential running mates, VPs
Trump aides plot '2-phase' strategy to win potential contested convention
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich could provide Trump with exactly what he is looking for in a running mate — an experienced lawmaker who pushed legislation through Congress for years.
Though he has been actively aboard the Kasich bandwagon in recent days, Gingrich has come to Trump's defense regarding both the establishment backlash to his candidacy and the controversy the frontrunner found himself in after initially failing in a CNN interview to disavow support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence
Pence is rumored to be one of the final few people on Donald Trump's short list to be running mate. He appeared with him mere days before Trump was expected to announce his decision, and even met with Trump's family.
Pence found himself in the spotlight in recent months after defending Indiana's religious liberty law that was criticized by many as being discriminatory against the LGBT community.
(Photo by REUTERS/John Sommers II)
A wildcard choice for sure, some began to wonder if Donald Trump might consider naming his daughter as his running mate after Sen. Bob Corker suggested the move shortly after taking himself out of the mix.
Ivanka, who would turn 35 mere days before the election, has not addressed the rumors, but brother Eric backed her.
(Photo by REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)
The 57-year-old retired lieutenant general has been advising the campaign on foreign affairs for months, but as Flynn's under-the-radar candidacy gained steam as Trump's decision drew near.
Conservative supporters have warned that Flynn isn't sufficiently tough on social issues.
(Photo by REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File photo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is the only 2016 GOP presidential candidate who has endorsed Trump since leaving the race.
Christie could help Trump with more moderate GOP voters, and he certainly has the bombastic personality that would serve as a useful surrogate for Trump, though the two also fiercely criticized each other when they were both candidates in the race.
Back in November, Trump said Christie could have a "place" on his ticket.
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is the only sitting senator to endorse Trump — and he has already been tapped to lead Trump's national-security advisory committee.
"A movement is afoot that must not fade away," Sessions said during the Alabama rally where he announced his support last month.
Sessions is one of the staunchest supporters of Trump's hard-line plan to crack down on illegal immigration. The senator could also give Trump credibility in the South.
(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts was the first current or former senator to endorse Trump. He was known in the Senate as a moderate, and he could help pick up votes with some in the less conservative wing of the Republican Party.
He has supported abortion rights and is in favor of banning assault weapons, but he carries a blue-collar, populist persona. Brown memorably drove a pickup truck to campaign events during his 2010 Senate run in Massachusetts, which was to fill a vacant seat.
During a January event in New Hampshire, Trump said Brown was cut out of "central casting" and could be his vice president. Brown said at the time that Trump was "the next president of the United States."
(Photo by Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
"I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular," Gov. Paul LePage of Maine said while announcing his support for the GOP frontrunner last month on "The Howie Carr Show."
The governor is comparable to Trump when it comes to provocative remarks. In January, LePage found himself at the center of a national firestorm after he made some racially tinged comments about out-of-state drug dealers who come into Maine and "impregnate a young white girl" before leaving.
"Now I get to defend all the good stuff he says," LePage has said of Trump.
LePage also entered politics after a successful business career, but he was reportedly staunchly opposed to Trump's candidacy before suddenly coming on board.
(Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Last week, BuzzFeed reported that advisers close to Huckabee thought the vice-president nod was in the cards for their guy.
Of all the former 2016 White House contenders, Huckabee may be closest to Trump ideologically. Huckabee struck a populist tone on cultural issues and, like Trump, vowed to protect Social Security and Medicare if elected.
(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Aside from a few brushups in the fall, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio has barely touched Trump along the trail. The same can be said for Trump, whose most brutal attack against Kasich is that he "got lucky" because of the natural-gas reserves in his state.
It has been rumored that Trump would be interested in Kasich as his running mate, though Trump has also recently started criticizing Kasich on the campaign trail.
Kasich has the political experience that Trump says he's seeking. Kasich also hails from the Midwest, one of the most competitive regions in the past few presidential races.
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
It has been an ongoing rumor that Gov. Rick Scott of Florida will endorse Trump after Scott wrote a gushing op-ed article in USA Today in January.
Like Trump, Scott rose to power from the business world. But Scott also has clout in the largest general-election swing state. In addition, he has six years of government experience behind him after being elected to office in 2010.
John McCain's running mate in 2008, Sarah Palin was a big get for Trump when she endorsed the frontrunner over Ted Cruz, whom she had vigorously campaigned for during his Senate run in 2012.
If Trump is interested in a sharp break with the Republican establishment, picking Palin would certainly send that signal.
It's an open question, however, as to whether she boosted or hindered McCain's run during the 2008 race.
(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Oklahoma Republican Governor Mary Fallin makes remarks before the opening of the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, in this February 22, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Theiler/Files
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If Trump falls short by 100 delegates, he could close the gap by locking in one out of three of those unbound delegates. That is certainly possible, considering he has won about 37 percent of all votes so far.
It is a point that may be lost on some still rooting for a long contested convention — if Trump keeps winning primaries, he won't need many of the convention delegates.
Still, the campaign has assembled a delegate team of about a dozen people ready to game out these convention scenarios.
The team includes Trump's general counsel, former FEC commissioner Don McGahn, former Carson aides such as Jason Osborne, who handled floor operations at past conventions, and Ed Brookover, a former RNC political director with deep ties to Washington Republicans.
The hires come as the Cruz campaign is already proving it is trying to out-organize Trump at state party conventions, where they can add to their delegate count in order to better position themselves to stop Trump in Cleveland. Only two states have held those local conventions so far, and Cruz successfully added to his delegate count in Louisiana earlier this month.
Asked to assess this "Phase One" strategy — picking off delegates before the convention — a former high-ranking RNC official praised Trump's team, but warned there's no way to know if the plan works before delegates are chosen at state conventions.
"They have an experienced team in place to do it," the former official said, "but I don't know how you gauge success before you know who the delegates are."
'Every Man and Woman for Themselves'
Trump faces an even more unpredictable process on the convention floor if he does not lock in a clear delegate majority before Cleveland.
An operative on Trump's convention team, who was not authorized to speak on the record, described Phase Two as an effort to prevent attrition in that balloting.
"Our goal," the aide says, "is to make sure every delegate Trump has now stays a Trump delegate on the second ballot."
The horse-trading also intensifies on later balloting.
"It's every man and woman for themselves," Bennett said, "and that's when the negotiations start."
"It's everything from, 'Come campaign in our state,' or 'Do a fundraiser for a state party,' or 'Put stronger language about right to life in the platform,'" he said. "Or all kinds of crazy things that are important to whoever the delegate is."
The challenge for the Trump campaign will be closely tracking which delegates want to bargain, and what the campaign can deliver in return.
One campaign operative, who joined Trump's convention team during the primaries, expressed surprise at that effort already in the works.
"I think the mistaken impression is that they weren't playing by the traditional rules before," said the campaign staff member, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "One of the pleasant surprises I had, when I joined, was that the state directors were already engaged in the process."
Even some of Trump's detractors concede he is well-positioned to win even a contested convention.
"It's like a recount — always better to go into it with a lead," Stuart Stevens, a former Romney campaign strategist, told NBC NEWS.
REALTED: Donald Trump through the years:
Donald Trump through the years
Trump aides plot '2-phase' strategy to win potential contested convention
Real estate developer Donald Trump annouces intentions to build a $100 million dollar Regency Hotel. (Photo by John Pedin/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 02: Donald Trump with Alfred Eisenpreis, New York City Economic Development Administrator. Sketch of new 1,400 room Renovation project of Commodore Hotel. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - 1980: Donald Trump and Ivana Trump attend Roy Cohn's birthday party in February 1980 in New York City. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 26: Donald Trump stands behind architect's model of City Hall Plaza. (Photo by Frank Russo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Donna Mills and Donald Trump during 1983 Annual American Image Awards at Sheraton Center in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Portrait of real estate mogul Donald John Trump (b.1946), smiling slightly and facing to his right, 1983. New York. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)
New York real estate magnates Steve Ross, right, and Donald Trump, left, announce agreement, Thursday, August 1, 1985 in New York, to merge the Houston Gamblers and the New Jersey Generals United States Football League teams. Ross heads a group of investors that last week agreed to buy the troubled Houston franchise. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)
Real estate magnate Donald Trump poses in front of one of three Sikorsky helicopters at New York Port Authority's West 30 Street Heliport on March 22, 1988. (AP Photo/Wilbur Funches)
Ivana Trump and Donald Trump during Mike Tyson vs Michael Spinks Fight at Trump Plaza - June 27, 1988 at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Donald Trump and his wife, Ivana, pose outside the Federal Courthouse after she was sworn in as a United States citizen, May 1988. (AP Photo)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 4: Billionaire Donald Trump and his wife Ivana arrive 04 December 1989 at a social engagement in New York. (Photo credit should read SWERZEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Shown in photo is Donald Trump, Nov. 20, 1990. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Billionaire developer Donald Trump, right, waits with his brother Robert for the start of a Casino Control Commission meeting in Atlantic City, N.J., March 29, 1990. Trump was seeking final approval for the Taj Mahal Casino Resort, one of the world's largest casino complexes. (AP Photo)
Developer Donald Trump, center, is flanked by super middleweight champion Thomas Hearns, left, of Detroit, and Michael Olajide of Canada at a news conference in New York Thursday, Feb. 15, 1990. The three announced the super middleweight title bout at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort at Atlantic city, N. J on April 28.(AP Photo/Timothy Clary)
Real estate magnate Donald Trump and his girlfriend Marla Maples are seen at the Holyfield-Foreman fight at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, N.J., April 19, 1991. (AP Photo)
Donald Trump and Daughter Ivanka Trump during Maybelline Presents 1991 Look of the Year at Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 7: Donald Trump touches 07 April 1993 Marla Maples stomach to confirm published reports that the actress is pregnant with his child. The two arrived for Maples appearance in the Broadway musical 'The Will Rogers Follies'. (Photo credit should read HAI DO/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 21: US business tycoon Donald Trump(C) enters the PLaza Hotel in New York past supporters 21 December 1994. Hundreds of supporters showed up at a news conference where Trump denied a New York newspaper report that the Sultan of Brunei had bid 300 million USD to buy the Manhattan hotel. (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE--This is a 1994 file photo of Donald Trump. Trump said Wednesday, Oct. 23, 1996 he has bought the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen beauty pageants from ITT. ``It's a done deal,'' Trump said in a telephone interview. ``It's a very, very great entertainment format. It gets very high ratings, it's doing very well and we'll make it even better.'' Trump declined to say how much he paid. Asked if a New York Post source was correct in saying the deal was worth tens of millions of dollars, Trump replied, ``Why not? (AP Photo/Jim Cooper)
FLUSHING MEADOWS, UNITED STATES: Donald Trump and his girlfriend Celina Midelfar watch Conchita Martinez and Amanda Coetzer 07 September at US Open in Flushing Meadows, NY. AFP PHOTO Timothy CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Christine Whitman during Opening of New Warner Bros. Store in Trump Plaza Casino at Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
In this June 7, 1995 file photograph, Donald Trump is seen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after taking his flagship Trump Plaza Casino public in New York City. Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., based in Atlantic City, New Jersey, filed for Chapter 11 protection on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009, in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Jersey. Trump and his daughter Ivanka resigned from the company's board Friday, Feb. 13, 2009, after growing frustrated with bondholders. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens,File)
Celine Dion, husband Rene, Donald Trump & Ivanka Trump (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
Entrepreneur Donald Trump watches an undercard fight as an unidentified companion whispers into his ear before the start of the Mike Tyson versus Francois Botha bout at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Saturday, Jan. 16, 1999. (AP Photo/Eric Draper)
Developer Donald Trump holds an umbrella as he walks Saturday, Nov. 9, 2002, to the 11th green of the Ocean Trail Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Trump plans to turn the beleagured golf club into a world class course. Trump intends to close on the golf club by December and hopes to begin improvements by January. He could reopen the course, 20 miles south of Los Angeles, as early as June. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Entrepreneur Donald Trump (L) and Rev. Al Sharpton speak at a ribbon cutting ceremony for Sharpton's National Action Network Convention April 5, 2002 in New York City. The group aims to further the development of civil rights. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and his girlfriend Melania Knauss attend the Marc Bouwer/Peta Fall/Winter 2002 Collection show February 14, 2002 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City. (Photo by George De Sota/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 06: WBC Kampf im Schwergewicht 2003, New York/Madison Square Garden; Vitali KLITSCHKO/UKR - Kirk JOHNSON/CAN; Donald TRUMP als Zuschauer (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10: Donald Trump stands on the sidelines before the start of the AFC divisional playoffs between the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans on January 10, 2004 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Temperatures have reached as low as 7 degrees in the Foxboro area. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
US tycoon Donald Trump arrives to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, on February 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 10: Donald Trump speaks during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 2015 NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits on April 10, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. The annual NRA meeting and exhibit runs through Sunday. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Real estate mogul and billionaire Donald Trump attends Golf legend Jack Nicklaus' Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda March 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Trump announed on March 18 that he has launched a presidential exploratory committee. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - MAY 16: Businessman Donald Trump speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The event sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa gave several Republican presidential hopefuls an opportunity to strengthen their support among Iowa Republicans ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucus. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Developer Donald Trump displays a copy of his net worth during his announcement that he will seek the Republican nomination for president, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump gives a thumbs up before boarding his campaign plane to depart from Laredo, Texas, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
AYR, SCOTLAND - JULY 30: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump visits his Scottish golf course Turnberry with his children Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump on July 30, 2015 in Ayr, Scotland. Donald Trump answered questions from the media at a press conference. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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While his convention team prepares, Trump is publicly casting any challenge to his nomination as either dangerous or unfair.
In a CNN interview on March 17, Trump said "I think you'd have riots" if delegates blocked him from the nomination at the convention.
This week, he told Fox Business it would be "mathematically unfair" if he lost the nomination after winning 400 more delegates than Cruz. On Monday, he called the majority delegate requirement "unfair" seven times, arguing that it's too hard for the front-runeer to win 50 percent in a race with over 5 candidates.
While I believe I will clinch before Cleveland and get more than 1237 delegates, it is unfair in that there have been so many in the race!
Several campaign sources stressed that Trump's convention operation is an insurance policy for an unlikely event.
Bennett says the campaign's internal projections show Trump will finish the primaries with about 1,450 delegates. That number was top of mind for the candidate himself this week, as he offered reporters a tour of his new hotel at Washington's Old Post Office.
"If we do pretty well — just pretty well — we're at 1400," he told NBC News.
To win the bare 1,237 delegate majority, Trump would need to win 54 percent of the remaining delegates, an achievable outcome according to NBC estimates.
Most of the remaining states award delegates by essentially rounding up, with winner-take-all Congressional Districts, a potential benefit for whichever candidate is finishing strong. Cruz currently trails Trump by 281 delegates, after winning all 40 delegates in Utah this week, a winner-take-all state.
For Republican insiders, if Trump finishes a little shy of 1,237 delegates, the key question may not be whether it's theoretically possible to stop him in Cleveland — but whether it is practical.
An RNC official working on convention planning said party insiders increasingly expect Trump to be the nominee, which impacts how hard people really want to push a lost cause.
"Lee Atwater always told us, 'If it's happening, be for it,'" said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "This is happening."