Talking to Republican activists about Donald Trump at last week’s 2nd Congressional District convention in Apple Valley was like listening to people suffering through the five stages of grief. From denial to anger to bargaining, it’s clear that these GOP voters have some distance to go before they reach acceptance.
“I’m not happy with any candidate on the ticket,” said delegate Bill Jungbauer, a former party chair in the second district. “I’m considering going with a third party. Why not vote with my heart instead of the lesser of two evils?”
State Sen. Dave Thompson said he would not consider a third party vote, but a vote for Trump would come with an asterisk. “He certainly is not a philosophical conservative,” he said. “The way he has talked about women and other people concerns me. But would I in my heart of hearts prefer Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, the answer is yes. So that’s the dilemma with which I am left.”
Thompson also isn’t sure about the contention that Trump hurts all Republican candidates in Minnesota. “I think it’s going to be very balkanized,” he said. “Trump will hurt Republicans in the suburbs but you don’t know about the Iron Range where a number of people up there who are concerned about their economic future might like his protectionism.”
State senator Julianne Ortman touched on Trump’s potential economic appeal as she addressed the delegates on Trump’s behalf. “He will create thousands and thousands of new jobs. He will negotiate good deals, better [trade] deals, right?” she asked the group which responded with mild applause.
Party chair Keith Downey and state Rep. Matt Dean suggested that Minnesota Republicans might have a more positive reaction if Trump himself delivered that message.
Downey is remaining neutral until after the state party convention on May 20-21, but he said that Trump needs to personally connect with activists, particularly those still committed to Sen. Ted Cruz.
Dean agrees. “I’m going to support our party’s endorsed candidate, but Trump needs to reach out and meet people where they are and that’s a lot of hard work,” he said.
A Trump appearance is unlikely at the GOP’s state convention on Friday and Saturday. Party rules require delegates to the national convention to be allocated according to votes taken in the presidential poll – 17 for Marco Rubio, 13 for Cruz, and 8 for Trump.
Some activists are suggesting delegates at the state convention consider a Trump “no confidence” resolution to register their disapproval. Others have suggested the convention change the party name back to the Independent Republican party to create some distance.
While delegates are unlikely to defy Trump’s nomination that brazenly, the state GOP convention will convene with the party’s presumed presidential nominee having a weak standing in the Minnesota delegation.