Trump Wins GOP Nomination, But State Party Leaders Remain Noncommittal
Donald Trump is now the Republican nominee for President, after delegates in Cleveland awarded him their votes Tuesday night. For some Illinois Republicans, it’s a time for vindication and celebration. But others remain wary.
The real work of nominating a major party candidate for president is done in the caucuses and primaries that began what may seem like ages ago.
Actually, the Iowa caucuses were less than six months ago – in the blistering cold of early February.
But after the long slog of winnowing a field of 17 down to one (the one, of course, being Donald Trump), it wasn’t official until last night.
In alphabetical order, each state at the Republican National Convention had its chance to put those primary results to use by awarding its delegates to the presidential candidates.
Delegates, and guests lucky enough to make it onto the convention floor with them, crowded around state party chairman Tim Schneider when it was Illinois’ turn.
"I’m a proud citizen of the state of Illinois in the United States of America, and we have the finest governor in the nation in Gov. Bruce Rauner," he said. "The state of Illinois has six delegates for John Kasich, nine delegates for Ted Cruz and 54 delegates for the next President of the United States, Donald J. Trump!"
Between them and the journalists circling nearby to capture it unfold, the group formed a mini mosh-pit and delegates chanted "Trump! Trump! Trump!"
Many pundits had predicted Donald Trump would never be able to actually win the GOP nomination, but here it was, happening.
A distrust, skepticism, even disdain of the media is a popular sentiment of some Trump supporters, and of the candidate himself.
As the cheering died down, one woman with the Illinois delegation said, “take that, mainstream media.” Before she went back to her seat, I asked her: “How have we gotten it wrong?”
“You’re always wrong," she said. "You guys always twist and turn everything.”
The woman said her name was Kimberly Smith, and that she lives in Chicago; but the Republican Party and state board of elections has no one listed by that name as an Illinois delegate.
“You make it seem like the biggest issue of the day is whether Melania Trump has plagiarized something that’s already been plagiarized when we’ve got, you know, cops being murdered," she said. "And, you know, they’re not doing all the praiseful stuff. Like they show everything, and all the praise and happiness, and all the people here. Instead, you guys take things and make it seem like there’s chaos on the floor.”
In fact, the woman said, her experience has been exciting; No chaos, or division.
“We want Trump," she said. "We want to make America great again."
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis from Taylorville, who spent Tuesday night on the convention floor, also says that reports of division are over-hyped.
“There’s a lot less discontent out here amongst Republicans than many would like to portray,” he said.
And yet, there’s fuel feeding those media stories of discontent. While Trump has his steadfast supporters, there also are dyed-in-the-wool Republicans who are still struggling to get behind him.
Like U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, who says he’s been left with a "binary choice." There’s Hillary Clinton, who he says is an “entirely unacceptable candidate” for President of the United States.
“That makes the alternative then, Donald Trump," he said. "And so all of the sorts of feelings and things, you know, and the wincing at various comments … I feel those too. Like I said, I’m not here over-communicating and overselling. What I am saying is there’s a choice between these two people.”
Unlike some of his peers in the party, Roskam came to Cleveland for the convention. He spoke to the Illinois delegation and its many Trump supporters. Even so, he was unwilling or unable to say that Trump would get his vote.
It’s a similar story with the minority leader of the Illinois House, Jim Durkin. He is the highest-ranking member of the state GOP to attend the convention.
Durkin was on floor of the convention arena as the roll call of delegates continued. Trump supporters were cheering around him. Durkin says he welcomes Trump supporters, wants the party to expand, he knows that’s necessary to make any political gains.
But Durkin couldn’t commit to backing his party’s nominee.
“I want to get there. I need to hear more," he said. "This is a very personal decision for me, to vote for a man or woman for President of the United States.”
Durkin did say that Trump has brought new people to the Illinois Republican Party, and he’s hoping they’re as passionate about helping elect Republican state representatives as they are about Trump.
So it’s not that the state GOP is in chaos, or that it’s torn apart. But there are divisions --- divisions that could have an effect on elections.
And it is true that, as the “Trump train” charges full speed ahead, some of Illinois’ highest-ranking Republicans aren’t ready to climb aboard.