Republican National Convention Makes History In Cleveland, As Ohio Delegation Struggles With Trump As Nominee

The Republican National Convention is now over – and it’s made history in many ways. The convention opened on Monday afternoon with the usual fanfare, and a little bit of controversy, as the people behind the so-called “Never Trump” movement tried and failed to change the rules and allow each delegate to vote their conscience instead of the way they were pledged to vote. That was a very public glimpse into the division within the Republican Party over Trump. And it was very evident in the Ohio delegation, which is pledged to John Kasich but has some members who say it’s time to get behind the nominee - as Kasich spent time everywhere in northeast Ohio but at the convention at Quicken Loans Arena. The rift between Trump and Kasich appeared to grow as the week wore on, with Trump's campaign and Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges battling back and forth. But there were reports of a truce by the end of the week. And complicating the whole squabble story was a report that surfaced this week saying Trump had asked Kasich to be his running mate back in May, right after Kasich left the race. Concerns about how Kasich has been handling this were brought into sharp focus by, somewhat surprisingly, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who left the presidential race just hours before Kasich did after the Indiana primary in May. Cruz took the convention stage on Wednesday for a speech in which he did not endorse Trump, and then the next day took questions from the Texas delegation live on television.  But Akron-area state Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) says he stands behind Kasich’s decision.

While Kasich has been avoiding the Q, fellow Ohio Republican US Sen. Rob Portman has stopped by a few times to visit with the state delegation. Portman is on the ballot this fall, in a tough race with Democratic former Gov. Ted Strickland. He was not on the RNC convention speakers’ list, though he has endorsed Trump.

Ohio’s delegates are public officials, party leaders and people who’ve worked tirelessly to help Republican candidates. Though there are only 66 official delegates, there are dozens of alternates and honorary delegates at the convention and the activities surrounding it. Media outlets reported that some members of the Ohio delegation were disappointed that they didn’t get to spend more time with Kasich, since so many of them campaigned for him. But nearly every delegate was proud to be there for Kasich, even though some have transitioned to supporting the party’s official nominee - including Kennison Saunders from Gallipolis, Sandra Barber from Waseon and Mike Gonidakis from Columbus, who's also the president of Ohio Right to Life.

When asked about Trump before the convention, answers from the party’s top elected officials were mostly lukewarm. But they’re now nearly all on board, including Attorney General Mike Dewine and Secretary of State Jon Husted.  But former Auditor and Attorney General Betty Montgomery has real concerns.

Some 15,000 journalists, producers and others were credentialed for the RNC. And among those observing the Republican National Convention from Media Row, which is set up in a parking garage next door to the Q, are northeast Ohio conservative commentators Dave Zanotti and Rob Walgate with the Ohio Roundtable. They stopped by the Idea Center a few blocks from the convention to talk about the real finish line for the candidates – the November election.

It would be easy to forget with all the activity going on in the Q and inside the security zone, there are other, even more diverse voices sounding off outside. Each day this week, the Democratic National Committee has been holding press conferences and media calls with DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. And of course, there were plenty of protestors, from anti-war groups, Black Lives Matter, Anonymous and other mostly progressive causes and groups – though there were a few counterprotestors who showed up, sometimes armed. Police arrested a few dozen people, but for the most part, the protests were loud and peaceful.

Delegates, pundits and other experienced convention goers noted over and over how different this convention was. One major difference is the number and types of media outlets covering the RNC. ideastream's Rick Jackson looked into the new media that came to this convention.

As those people packed up and left, so did the vendors who took over the concourse at Progressive Field to sell GOP-themed merchandise. Some were local, but others came from as far away as California to sell Republican branded t-shirts, purses, jewelry, hats, art and other memorabilia. Many plan to head to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention next week.

One piece of disappointing news for Ohio political junkies this week was Wright State University in Dayton, pulled out of hosting the first presidential debate in September, citing rising security costs. There were estimates that the tab could go as high as $11 million, when the university has expected only about $5 million. Hofstra University will now host that debate on September 26.

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