Donald Trump

Across the country, state party leaders are pushing activists to get in line.

Party leaders this weekend encouraged, coaxed and even browbeat their rank-and-file into a message of unity behind Donald Trump. | AP Photo


By Kyle Cheney
05/14/16 – 10:56 PM EDT

Republican activists chose party unity over “never Trump” resistance Saturday, with party leaders in one state after another pressuring their members fall in line behind the presumptive nominee — and even punishing those who refused.

Eleven states held annual Republican conventions or party leadership meetings Saturday, offering a platform for those who still object to Donald Trumpas their party’s standard-bearer a prime opportunity to make mischief. But at almost every turn, they slammed into state leaders who closed ranks around a candidate that many once said they’d never support.

In Nebraska, this meant overwhelming passage of a resolution that indirectly scolded conservative Sen. Ben Sasse for leading the #NeverTrump movement and scuttling a countermeasure to condemn “degrading remarks toward women, minorities and other individuals” by presidential candidates.

In Maryland, it meant the ouster of a veteran Republican committeeman — Louis Pope — by Citizens United chief David Bossie, a conservative activist who’s close to Trump and who is closely associated with the rise of super PACs in American politics. Bossie has been a longtime ally of Trump and represents an early look at how Trump’s takeover of the party could reshape it for years.

In Arkansas, it meant packing the state’s national delegation with Trump allies and granting them influential leadership positions to shape Republican Party rules and policy doctrines at the convention.

Across the country, party leaders encouraged, coaxed and even browbeat their rank-and-file into a message of unity. And they did it by way of a consistent message: Trump is flawed, but Hillary Clinton would be far, far worse.

Oklahoma and Montana conventions shared a common mantra: “United We Stand.” In Montana, walls of posters interspersing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” signs with campaign posters for Congressman Ryan Zinke and gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte reinforced the theme. In Wisconsin, local reports indicated that even former Trump critics were nudging their allies into backing the mogul.

That message carried over into the selection of delegates to the national convention. In all, nearly 400 were picked on Saturday at these 11 party meetings — about one in every six that will fill seats in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena in July.

Sources in Ted Cruz’s orbit had suggested the Texas senator would still be a factor in delegate battles over the weekend, flexing his muscle among conservative activists to try and retain a position of influence at the national convention. But that plan appeared to fizzle. In Nevada, at least 13 of 15 statewide delegates were pro-Trump.

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