Wisconsin Republicans still struggling with Trump
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Even as some Wisconsin Republicans are urging delegates to the national convention to get aboard the movement to dump presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, others in the state GOP continue to urge unity.
The tension is playing out as campaign workers from the Republican National Committee are spreading out across Wisconsin to contact voters and get them to the polls in November. The coordinated campaign is focused on helping all Republicans, including Trump, incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, those running for the Congress and the state Legislature.
The RNC forces are tapping the state Republican Party’s vast voter information database and experience running campaigns. That is in addition to the Trump campaign, which has hired a state director but shown little sign of activity in Wisconsin.
Not having a unified front threatens all Republicans on the ballot this fall, not just Trump, said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. He has been one of the most outspoken advocates for Republicans to get behind Trump.
“Listen, we’ve got to get our act together,” Fitzgerald said on Tuesday. “I mean we’ve got victory centers to run throughout the state, we’ve got get-out-the-vote plans, we’ve got volunteer bases, phone banks, fundraising. All of this has to come together in a very short period of time. And if we have Republicans fractured in every direction and not supporting the nominee, it’s going to make it that much more difficult.”
But Fitzgerald’s call for unity is being drowned out on conservative talk radio in southeast Wisconsin, which continues to beat the “dump Trump” mantra. And earlier this week Republican strategist Brian Fraley penned an open letter to Republican delegates to the Republican National Convention, urging them to seek rule changes that will allow all delegates to cast their ballots for someone other than Trump.
“Donald Trump wants you to now enter into a political suicide pact with him,” Fraley wrote in the open letter that has been generating chatter on talk radio and across online social media. “Please do not oblige him.”
The call for delegates to be able to vote as they wish, even if they are bound to vote for Trump, has also gained steam thanks to comments from Wisconsin’s two highest profile Republican office holders.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Janesville, said last week that delegates should follow their conscience in deciding whether or not to support Trump. And Gov. Scott Walker, who backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz but then endorsed Trump when he became the presumptive nominee, has agreed with Ryan and said delegates should be free to vote their conscience.
But Walker and the state’s 41 other delegates are all bound to vote for the winner in Wisconsin’s primary, both statewide and in each congressional district. That means 36 of Wisconsin’s votes go to Cruz and six are for Trump on the first ballot.
The delegates can only switch if they are released by the candidate or he fails to get a third of the vote in any given round.
Delegate Brian Westrate, an activist from Eau Claire who voted for Cruz, is one of the state’s six delegates who are bound to vote for Trump. Westrate said Wednesday that’s what he intends to do, and he’s gotten no pressure to join the “dump Trump” movement.
“Not even a tiny bit,” Westrate said. “I haven’t gotten a phone call from anybody, a request to sign on. I haven’t gotten any emails.”
Delegate Jim Miller, of Hayward, is bound to vote for Trump and believes calls to abandon him will eventually die out.
“I think it’s just a phase,” Miller said.
Fitzgerald said attempts to replace Trump won’t work, and he’s optimistic Republicans will ultimately come together.
“We’ve had weak presidential candidates in the past, which certainly didn’t help us down ticket,” Fitzgerald said. “But at this point it’s like we’ve still got some time, we’re still four weeks from the convention, so there’s still time to pull things together and I think we will do that.”
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