CLEVELAND — Donald Trump is officially the GOP nominee for president. There was no delegate revolt, no late coup attempt by another Republican. Yet there remains a persistent drive to compel and cajole the party’s faithful not just to support Trump but to trust him.
Early on in this Republican National Convention, the signs were outward, and awkward. There was this Sunday admonition to Georgia’s delegates from state party chairman John Padgett: “If there’s anybody in this room that thinks there’s going to be anybody else nominated and win on Thursday night — not going to happen. No matter who you’re for, or who you’ve been for, when you get through with Thursday night, get on the Trump train, folks.”
There was the brouhaha on the floor Monday when nine states tried to force a recorded vote on the convention’s rules — a last gasp by “Never Trump” folks to open the door to a different candidate. Like the other formal channels for supporting Trump, or not, that path was quickly blocked by party officials.
But more subtle, and mostly off-site, have been the many efforts to reassure conservatives still queasy about Trump they can trust him should he win in November.
At a Tuesday discussion hosted by FreedomWorks, for example, CNBC’s Larry Kudlow challenged panelists to make persuade holdouts on the right. To energy entrepreneur Harold Hamm: “Do you believe Mr. Trump is reliable in his pro-energy position? A lot of friends of ours from the conservative wing of the Republican Party simply do not believe Mr. Trump on issues — and he’s got good issues in my opinion.”
And then to Andy Puzder, head of CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s): “There are fellow conservatives who have worked in the trenches for many decades. I love them. But they do not agree, with regard to Mr. Trump’s credibility on taxes and energy and regulatory policy. So when you tout your support for him, how do you convince people that Mr. Trump can be believed?”
They were the right questions. The responses were interesting.
“People don’t know how well Donald Trump listens,” Hamm said. “He didn’t get to be this good a businessperson without listening. … He understands you have to have an economic diver. He understands what that means to be a net exporter of crude oil, not to have a negative trade balance. He understands all those issues.”
From Puzder: “You can fake a lot of things in life. Business success doesn’t happen to be one of those things. … I’d say if you don’t believe that Donald Trump was successful because he knows what he’s doing, if you don’t believe that when people like Harold and Larry Kudlow and Andy Puzder say this guy listens and we think he’s going to move things forward, all you really need to know is the alternative is Hillary Clinton. And every (bad) policy she has, I trust her (to do).”
Decide for yourself how persuasive you find those answers. (If you want to hear more of what they said, most of that discussion is posted here.)
To me, it’s important and telling that, two and a half months after the nominating contest essentially ended, the need for such persuasion within the party is still so necessary. It underscores that the lack of GOP unity reflected in Trump’s relatively low poll numbers against Clinton is real. And it makes me wonder: If the party isn’t united after Thursday’s finale in Cleveland, can it still get there by November?