The Republican National Convention in Cleveland is three months away. And the party remains very much divided over the candidates for president. Ted Cruz closed Donald Trump’s lead over the weekend, sweeping all of the state’s 34 open delegates at the GOP state assembly in Colorado Springs. Yet as Bente Birkeland reports, Republicans in Colorado are as split as anywhere else in the country over the race.
“It has been a lot of smoke and mirrors and a lot of hype. And I think he hasn’t thought out plans as foreign policy, the economy, healthcare and things like that,” said Brad Tutor of Gunnison, one of the attendees.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s speech was the highlight for many of the seven thousand Republicans who were part of a record turnout. They listened and applauded as Cruz rallied them on issues like jobs and homeland security. Then he spoke about his biggest rival.
“It’s easy to talk about making America great again, you can even put that on a baseball cap, but the question is do you understand the principals and values that made America great in the first place?” said Cruz.
However Donald Trump wasn’t there to issue a retort. He was visiting a 911 memorial museum and sent a surrogate, passing the chance to connect with voters like Tutor.
“I know that Trump’s got the majority of the delegates at this point in time, but I don’t think he’ll have all of them when we get to the convention.”
Republicans had been selection delegates at each congressional district assembly and thirteen were awarded on Saturday. Attendee Rob Blancken of Colorado Springs was vying for one of those coveted Cleveland delegate spots along with 600 other people. He also backs Cruz.
“He’s almost disliked by as many Republicans in the U.S. Senate as Democrats in the US Senate, so that must say something, he’s doing something right. We haven’t seen this nation this divided since the 1860s so it’s critical we get a candidate that will unite the country.”
Blancken was wearing a sign around his neck that said unpledged tea party member. Justin Hayward from Park County, south of Breckenridge, approached him in the hallway tying to convince him to switch his support to Trump.
“He’s saying the things that nobody seemingly the balls to say. What we have got to do about the Mexican border, what we’re doing with immigration,” said Hayward.
Blancken responded that he has no problem with what Trump is saying but has no faith he’ll fulfill because he has no idea how politics work.
“But do we have any faith that any of the career politicians are going to do it?” said Hayward.
Despite supporting Trump, the businessman isn’t Hayward’s dream candidate. Like several other Republican voters he’s concerned about some of the things Trump has said, and how it would resonate with the larger electorate in a general election.
“He’s stuck his foot in his mouth I mean horribly and I really don’t think that’s the person he is. But no, he’s not a politician he doesn’t know how to go up there and say what’s supposed to be said, unfortunately that’s a little bit of his appeal, is the lack of filter.”
A former lifelong Democrat — Rebecca Conway from Greeley – was also in the crowd. She became a Republican six years ago, frustrated by what she sees as too much political correctness among Democrats. She also likes Trump.
“Key issues will be effectiveness, ability to actually lead and not be so dogmatic that you don’t get the country where it needs to go, and you have to compromise.”
She hopes Trump’s brashness in business will translate into deals in Congress.
“He’s worked with lots of people to make things happen, and I haven’t seen that from Senator Cruz yet. Maybe he can, but he hasn’t convinced me of that yet,” said Conway.”
Among the younger voters was Brian Smyth of Colorado Springs. He’s 28. If Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president, Smyth says he will vote for a third party or write-in candidate.
“Abortion is a big issue to me, probably the most critical issue, and I don’t sense that he’s strong enough on that. Like he says it, but I have trouble believing he really is pro-life just based on what I’ve seen and heard from him. ”
After this weekend, with contests in Colorado and South Carolina, Trump lost ground to Cruz. He now has 743 delegates. Cruz has 566, including those he picked up in Colorado.