CASPER — The nomination of Donald Trump as the GOP’s presidential candidate was bittersweet for Wyoming delegates in Cleveland, they said, since most supported U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
Wyomingites walked against the national Republican tide of support for the real estate mogul. Most of the state’s 29 delegates arrived at the Republican National Convention pledged to other candidates. In the end, only three delegates voted for Trump on Tuesday. One voted for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, two for Gov. John Kasich and 23 for Cruz.
However, Wyoming delegates said they will vote for Trump in November — if not because they support him, then because they believe presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would be terrible for the state and country — as emotion is running high at the convention.
The event features loud speakers pumping music, speeches from party leaders who are almost celebrities and lots of aspirational talk about the future that has been frequently interrupted with energetic cheering and applause.
“It’s bittersweet any time you put a lot of effort into a campaign,” said Ed Buchanan of Torrington, who was the Wyoming chairman for Cruz’s campaign. “And clearly Ted Cruz had the overwhelming support of the Wyoming citizens. It’s just one of those things where you fall a little bit short.”
Late Wednesday, Cruz refused to endorse Trump as he addressed the GOP convention. He encouraged Americans to “vote your conscience” at the general election in November. Delegates spoke to the Star-Tribune before Cruz took the stage.
Many Wyoming delegates attended a rally for Cruz on Wednesday, during which the U.S. senator from Texas thanked them for their support. Buchanan said he was also meeting Cruz at a smaller affair for people more involved in his campaign.
“I am optimistic in my vote for Donald Trump,” said Buchanan, former speaker of the Wyoming House. “I hope he can deliver on his campaign promises. And if he does, then I think we’ll all be pleased with a Trump presidency. But I think time will tell.”
Buchanan said he’s most interested in Trump’s promises to improve U.S. trade policy to return manufacturing jobs to the U.S. Buchanan also wants a better immigration policy in which immigrants who have committed felonies are deported.
State party chairman Matt Micheli of Cheyenne was one of a few unpledged delegates. He voted for Cruz because he wanted his vote to reflect the wishes of a majority of the state’s Republicans, he said.
“However, now the Republican Party has chosen its nominee,” Micheli said. “We know how dangerous Hillary Clinton is for our state, and we need to do everything we can to make sure Hillary Clinton is never back in the White House.”
Micheli believes Trump will win Wyoming. The GOP is the majority party in Wyoming. But the New Yorker needs to show how he understands the issues affecting the Cowboy State, Micheli said.
“Frankly, I think Trump has some work to do to demonstrate that to all of us,” he said. “But I think he’s made some steps. He’s saying the right things about coal and energy development. He’s still got to campaign. I think he’s going to get good people around him who understand the West and our issues.”
Trump received over 1,500 votes Tuesday night. He needed 1,237 to win the nomination.
Wyoming was one of last to inform the convention which presidential candidates its 29 delegates supported. Wyoming announced after almost all of the other states, territories and Washington, D.C. — as the convention voting was in generally alphabetical order.
As time went on, it became obvious to delegate Ogden Driskill of Devils Tower that Trump was sweeping the majority of the vote. Driskill, a state senator who arrived in Cleveland uncommitted, decided to support him.
At around 7:30 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, Buchanan, the Cruz chairman for Wyoming, announced to the convention the Wyoming delegates’ choices.
“From the great state of Wyoming: Home of Reagan conservatives, rugged individualism, from the majestic Tetons and Cheyenne Frontier Days, a leading producer of low-sulfur coal, we are an energy titan,” he said to a cheering convention. “A super red state, a Republican governor, all five statewide electeds Republicans, a Republican majority in our state Legislature. … We have a balanced budget. We have a $1.6 billion surplus and we have no corporate and individual income tax.
“We support states’ rights, religious liberty, the Second Amendment and law enforcement officers across this great nation. Wyoming proudly casts its votes as follows: One vote for Sen. Marco Rubio, two votes for Gov. John Kasich and for an individual that we’ve come to know and love as one of our own, 23 votes for the senator from the great state of Texas, Ted Cruz.”
The audience erupted in cheers.
“And now for someone we’ve come to know and have come to support, and we will throw our support behind — against Hillary Clinton — the next president of the United States, three votes for Mr. Donald Trump.”
Driskill had wanted a bloc of Wyoming delegates to have been uncommitted, an effort that failed at the state convention in May. He believes a large number of up-for-grabs delegates could have brought more attention to Wyoming from the campaigns, and the state could have influenced the election.
Driskill is now concerned about Wyoming’s low support for Trump. He believes it will hurt the state if Trump becomes president.
“Trump is obviously a guy who operates on loyalty,” Driskill said. “You’re good to him, he’s good to you. Obviously Wyoming wasn’t very loyal. But we need the Trump administration to support Wyoming.”
By Laura Hancock
Casper Star Tribune