Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has shifted his campaign to the general election for what promises to be a brutal contest against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. But Trump still has to stamp out the remaining vestiges of the Republican opposition to his candidacy heading into the Republican National Convention.
A young Republican in Maine is on the team to help him complete that mission.
Trump’s ongoing battle with the Republicans who continue to oppose him didn’t come up during his rally in Bangor this week. Since assuming the mantle of presumptive Republican nominee, Trump has directed the majority of his bombast and taunts at Clinton.
But Trump still has Republican enemies. And they’re attempting to derail his nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland later this month.
“Iowa Republican state committeeman Steve Schleffler is trying to force Republican delegates to vote for Donald Trump and threatening those who find that vote to be morally offensive,” Steve Lonegan, who runs a political action committee called Courageous Conservatives, said in an ad that’s running in Iowa.
Lonegan’s PAC is among the Republican organizations who are continuing to fight Trump’s coronation in Cleveland. He is also part of the self-described “Free the Delegates” movement, which is hoping to convince enough of the more than 1,237 delegates who are bound to vote for Trump to pick somebody else at the convention. The group claims to have converted hundreds of delegates.
But Trump’s campaign is working to counter the insurrection. And it has assembled a five-man team to ensure there’s no funny business — such as changing the convention rules to alter primary or caucus contests in such a way that another candidate could free up delegates who are assigned to vote for Trump.
“From our perspective, and speaking with the campaign, it’s all about just sticking with the rules that everyone agreed to at the beginning, because changing those rules after the game’s done, I mean, there isn’t a single caucus or primary left,” 27-year-old Alex Willette, a former state legislator, assistant district attorney in Sagadahoc County and state committeeman for the Maine Republican Party, said.
Willette is also a member of the all-important rules committee for the National Republican Committee and is one of the five-member team of Trump supporters that includes campaign attorney William McGinley. The team is working to make sure that none of the proposed rule changes upend Trump’s nomination.
Willette said he’s working with the Trump campaign to make sure the convention rules that were adopted two years ago remain in place. He said doing so wouldn’t necessarily help Trump with Maine delegates, because U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas secured most of the state’s delegates after winning the Republican caucuses here.
But changes will be proposed, especially if the so-called Never Trump movement and the Free the Delegates group have their say.
Willette said the party has its nominee. It’s Trump. Changing the rules now would do more harm than good.
“All those folks, the millions of folks, that turned out in record numbers to support Trump, if they had that taken away from them, I think it would really make it an uphill battle to win in November,” Willette said.
Party officials have downplayed the prospect of chaos at the convention. But predictions persist of a donnybrook between pro-Trump forces and those who believe his nomination will deliver a devastating blow to the Republican Party.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public Broadcasting Network.