Meet The Unbound Delegates Who Helped Donald Trump Secure The Nomination | KUOW News and Information

Meet The Unbound Delegates Who Helped Donald Trump Secure The Nomination

May 26, 2016
Originally published on May 31, 2016 9:34 am

On Thursday, Donald Trump reached the magic number — 1,237. That's the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination, and he got there after 29 unbound Republican delegates decided to support him at the convention.

NPR's Don Gonyea spoke to some of those delegates to ask what made them decide to support Trump.

Ben Koppelman, Republican Convention Delegate From North Dakota

On switching support from Cruz to Trump

I was committed to supporting Ted Cruz all the way to the convention, regardless of if Mr. Trump has 1,237 or not. But when Mr. Cruz suspended his campaign, that put me in the undecided category. Honestly, I held out a long time to get the most information to make my opinions and thoughts known as much as I could within the Trump campaign and ultimately, when it came down to it, Mr. Trump took the time to come to North Dakota. ... It made it where I was comfortable in saying that at this point and time, he's the best candidate in the race to lead our country, and certainly better than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. As best as I know, I was actually the last delegate — I was actually 1,237.

On what Trump needs to do now

It's got to be more than just the winning. It's got to be — are we going to have a candidate that can govern. I believe that he's got the potential because he's got the leadership skills, but he needs to show people that he's got the depth in the areas that are most affecting their lives. Once he does that, I think he'll be a much better candidate.

Steve House, Chairman Of The Colorado Republican Party

On his message to Republicans who are undecided

Do you like where America is? If the answer is no, then why not give someone who is a pure businessperson an opportunity to change the way we go forward with the country? And secondly, the Supreme Court is at stake as well as things like Obamacare. ... I think we have to address these things and I think we need a Republican president to do that.

On Trump's persona

For me, having been in politics such a short period of time, I do like the fact that he approaches things without any fear of how the media's going to react to him. I think that for too long in politics, with all due respect to those in the media, candidates and politicians themselves have let themselves be less than who they are with the public because they are afraid of media reaction, re-election, etc. I think in Donald Trump's case, he's broadened the horizon of the ability of any of us to say — look, this is how it is and don't be afraid to say what you really believe. ... I think in general, people worry far too much about the media reaction to what they say.

Pam Pollard, State Chairwoman Of The Oklahoma Republican Party

On delegates deciding to support Trump because he won their district

I personally applaud that type of logic for the right reasons. The reason behind it is, that by definition ... we are a republic, a representative form of government. And most of our states ... elect delegates, which is representative of the voters to go cast a vote, representative of those voters. So it encourages me when I continue to hear people say that I am setting my personal feelings aside and I am going to this convention as a delegate, which is supposed to be representative of the people that sent you to that convention.

On why she supports Trump

I think he brings a new dynamic to politics in America. I think that his theme has touched something that has brought a lot of excitement and a lot of hope to a lot of voters ... and that people are not happy with where our country is right now. ... His theme of "Make America Great," is selling. It's something that inspires people.

Marc Scaringi, Republican Convention Delegate From Pennsylvania

On avoiding a convention fight

If Trump came up short of that 1,237 prior to the convention, it was going to be a real fight on the floor of the convention. It would have been ugly. It would have been nasty. It would have portrayed us in a negative light in the eyes of the world. And so I'm so glad for our party and for the Trump candidacy that he's wrapped it up right now.

On Trump being over the top

It's a great sign for our country that so many Americans are now supporting the Trump campaign. It's a wonderful example of what the people power can do because so much of the Trump candidacy and success has been fueled by just grass-roots conservatives and grass-roots Republicans and we've carried the nomination for him.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

On a day when there were no primaries, no caucuses, no voting at all, Donald Trump reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He crossed the threshold, thanks commitments from so-called unbound delegates in a handful states that have already held contests. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has been talking to some of them.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The magic number to secure the nomination is 1,237. Trump has now surpassed that, thanks to Republican Party convention delegates like Ben Koppelman, a building contractor in North Dakota who says he's the guy who put Trump over the top - maybe.

BEN KOPPELMAN: Yes, as best as I know, I was actually the last delegate. I was actually number 1,237. Now, there's some people that count me as 1,236, but...

GONYEA: Koppelman spoke on his cell phone while waiting for the start of a Trump rally in Bismarck. He says it was either him or a buddy, also a North Dakota delegate, who made the clinching pledge.

KOPPELMAN: A good friend of mine and I kind of have a little bit of a Abbott and Costello routine between who's 1,237 and who's 1,236.

GONYEA: Koppelman was a Ted Cruz supporter. Now, he says, he'll work hard for Trump. But he adds that Trump does still need to do more to flesh out his proposals on the economy, on immigration, on foreign policy.

KOPPELMAN: He needs to show people that he's got the depth in areas that are the most affecting their lives. And once he does that, I think he'll be a much better candidate.

GONYEA: Other unbound delegates getting behind Trump include Pam Pollard, the state Republican Party chair in Oklahoma.

PAM POLLARD: I support Mr. Trump because I think he brings a new dynamic to politics in America.

GONYEA: Pollard predicts the Republican Party will eventually unify behind Trump in a big way, despite the grumblings of some high profile people like 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney and those using the hashtag #NeverTrump. For GOP delegate Marc Scaringi, also unbound, but now in Trump's camp, it's a relief to know for certain there'll be no nomination fight at the convention.

MARC SCARINGI: If Trump came up short of that 1,237 prior to the convention, it was - there was going to be a real fight on the floor of the convention. And it would have been ugly, and it would have been nasty. And it would have portrayed us in a negative light in the eyes of the world.

GONYEA: Don't look for the convention to be a picture of tranquility, though. Protesters will make sure of that, but Scaringi says at least the conflict won't be between warring factions of delegates aligned to different candidates. He also jokes that now that Trump is officially the presumptive nominee, unbound delegates are suddenly a lot less popular.

SCARINGI: But it's much better for the party and for the Trump campaign that he seals the deal early.

GONYEA: These delegates lining up behind Trump is the latest sign of party unity. There are still party leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who are withholding their support, but recent polls show that about 80 percent of Republican voters are now behind Donald Trump. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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