Never again for ‘Never Trump,’ say his Massachusetts backers

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CLEVELAND — A last ditch effort effort by anti-Trump delegates to derail the nomination of the New York businessman was downplayed by his Massachusetts campaign chair, but underscored the strange and fractious nature of this convention.

After what Massachusetts Republican National Committeeman Ron Kaufman described Monday morning as a week of “trench warfare” to get a rules package through the committee he co-chaired, Trump critics tried to force a full floor vote on the rules in hopes of defeating them and adopting reforms that might unbind delegates to vote against Trump.

The gambit, according to many delegates, was a long shot at best, but the episode served to showcase the discord still simmering within the Republican Party over their nominee at a time when Trump is trying to foster unity and bring the party together.

Vincent DeVito, a partner at Bowditch & Dewey in Boston and the chair of the Trump campaign in Massachusetts, downplayed the vocal contingent pushing for a floor vote, telling the News Service that from his perch on the floor all he could hear were Trump supporters shouting.

“There was never any passion behind ‘Never Trump.’ It was a few Ted Cruz supporters and jealousy is a very destructive emotion,” DeVito said in a interview at Trump’s campaign hotel downtown. DeVito sat on the 112-member Rules Committee, along with Massachusetts delegate Janet Fogarty.

Signatures from a majority of at least seven delegations were required to force the roll call vote, and it had appeared that at least nine delegations had submitted the request for a roll call.

According to MassGOP delegation leaders, at least one and maybe a couple delegates from the state signed signed the petition, including Trump supporters who thought it would free them from voting for another candidate based on the Massachusetts primary results and allow them to vote for Trump.

“It’s a smart sales pitch, but it’s dishonest,” DeVito said of the “Never Trump” advocates appealing to Trump supporters who might be bound to other candidates.

Politico reported that majorities in at least Colorado, Washington state, Utah, Minnesota, Wyoming, Maine, Iowa, Virginia and Washington, D.C. had signed on to request a roll call, but some later withdrew.

When the moment to ask for the vote came, Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas declared the rules adopted and then walked off stage as delegates from Virginia and Utah, among others, pleaded to be recognized.

“I cannot fathom what their thinking was…,” Sen. Mike Lee, of Utah, told reporters on the floor, shocked that Womack had left the stage and ignored the delegates calling to be recognized. For several minutes, Trump antagonists shouted “Roll call vote, roll call vote,” while supporters countered with chants of “USA, USA” and “Trump.”

Womack then came back on stage and declared the rules adopted after a second voice vote. He then explained after the Utah delegation requested a roll call that enough signatories from three states had withdrawn their name leaving just six states in support of the floor vote.

Critics of Trump tried to force a full floor vote after they lost a fight last week to change the rules to unbind the conventions 2,472 delegates and allow them to vote against the presumptive nominee.

Kaufman, who co-chaired the Rules Committee, told the state delegation Monday morning that the process had been like “trench warfare,” but he had been happy with the results.

Unsuccessful through the Rules Committee, the anti-Trump forces wanted to speak on the rules, potentially forcing an embarrassing moment for Trump and his team.

DeVito, however, said he views the Trump campaign as more organized than the Romney team four years ago when Ron Paul supporters staged a disruption on the convention floor.

“In the face of a disorganized ‘Never Trump’ group, it was an excellently managed and executed floor operations,” he said. “It you want to see chaos, do a roll call vote at a convention. That’s chaotic.”

DeVito also said he believes the high level of enthusiasm among the delegates in Cleveland for Trump’s candidacy is “night and day” compared to what he witnessed in Tampa in 2012 for Romney.

“Hopefully, nobody talks about ‘Never Trump’ again. It’s got to be dead now,” he said.

Earlier in the day, even one of the Massachusetts delegation’s most vocal critics of Trump dismissed the efforts of those clinging to the idea that he can be blocked

“People have delusions of grandeur,” said former MassGOP Chairman Jim Rappaport, who supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “Probably after New York, but certainly after Indiana, it was over. I’m not fond of Trump but my guy lost. So you move on.”

— Written by Matt Murphy

Copyright State House News Service