New Hampshire Delegates Downplay #NeverTrump, Embrace Social Side of Convention

Jul 19, 2016

A GOP press team member tweeted this photo of Iowa Senator Jonie Ernst speaking to New Hampshire delegates at a breakfast on Tuesday.
Credit Via twitter.com/jepersing

New Hampshire’s Republican delegation is in Cleveland for day two of the party’s national convention.

NHPR's Senior Political Reporter Josh Rogers is reporting from Cleveland this week. He spoke with Morning Edition's Rick Ganley about what they delegation is up to, and how they feel about what's transpired so far.

Josh, day one is in the books, New Hampshire delegates in the swing of things there, and they're going to hear from Iowa Senator Jonie Ernst this morning - she actually closed the convention last night, right?

She did, Rick. The Senator had a seemingly pretty tough speaking spot directly following Malania Trump's now controversial speech and the very brief appearance by Donald Trump himself, so the arena  was pretty much empty when she took the stage. This morning, Ernst's speaking circumstances will be a lot more intimate, in a restaurant adjacent to the hotel here. And if she wants to run for President someday, which some people believe she may, perhaps just as important as being on the stage last night, she's going to be talking directly to New Hampshire's delegates. And connecting with them is a good thing for any politician with national ambitions. Met Jonie Ernst when she campaigned in New Hampshire on behalf of Kelly Ayotte during the spring, but it will be interesting to see how she goes over as the focus.

And she's not the only potential future candidate that's paying attention to New Hampshire delegates this week, is she?

No, New Hampshire's not the only state these folks circulate and visit. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton will speak tomorrow, later in the week, Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin who actually ran last time and could run again will be visiting, and they'll be others. The delegates' social calendar is pretty full, and this afternoon they're going to be an event billed as "Make Housing Great Again" hosted by Scott Brown and some country and western acts. 

Okay, you got to Cleveland last night, you hung out with some of the delegates from  New Hampshire - what are they making of the experience of attending the convention so far?

It depends a lot on who you talk to. Several of them were eager to immediately argue that the failed effort by the delegates who opposed Donald Trump - the so-called Never Trump movement - was and is being blown out of proportion by the media, and that the flare-up on the floor yesterday was no big year. You know, others take a very different view. Former U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey, a delegate for Ohio Governor John Kasich, is among the most passionate anti-Trump Republicans. As has been widely reported - I'm sure listeners on our air heard it this morning - he went so far as to compare the RNC Convention to a "meeting of brown shirts" yesterday.

And how are the New Hampshire delegates who back Trump taking that sort of talk?

Well some roll their eyes, others suggest that people like Humphrey are simply sore losers, some will tell you they worry that perceptions of fissure within the party is just going to help Democrats and it's time to unify. For what it's worth, Gordon Humphrey has been staying at the same hotel as most of New Hampshire's delegates, which one Trump loyalist told me was fine with him. But overall, the delegates I talked to last night were feeling very good about the convention thus far, and said their having a great time.

So you are at the delegates' hotel, give us a sense of the scene there. 

Well, it's a Marriott on a secondary road about twenty minutes from downtown. New Hampshire's delegation has about 40 rooms here. So the delegates are a definitely presence. I stuck my head into the function room that's sort of their de facto lounge last night, and people were having a few drinks and talking about what they'd seen and heard, swapping stories about who they might have gotten their picture taken with and watching recaps on cable. It really did reinforce that a huge element of these conventions are social. The hotel we're in abuts with another where Rhode Island delegates are staying and maybe a few from Massachusetts. So the parking lots are filled with New England license plates, and when I headed  to my room around midnight last night, a few of the delegates were discreetly jumping the fence to the swimming pool to soak their feet and drink some beer, so it was sort of a real summer tableau - albeit one with a few policemen in tactical gear around the other side of the hotel in the parking lot.

Josh Rogers is NHPR's Senior Political Reporter
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Josh, a new issue surrounding Malania Trump's speech last night, which seemed to contain passages similar to Michelle Obama's speech from 2008, and those arose after many of the delegates actually turned in last night. Have you spoken to any New Hampshire delegates about this?

Not at any length. I did stick my head into the hall a few minutes ago. A delegate was hustling to breakfast and talking on their cell phone as they continued their conversation, they put their hand over the mouthpiece and muttered to me, "Can you believe that with her speech?" So obviously, people are talking about it and we'll see where this goes.