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Wisconsin GOP Delegates Anticipate Unusual Convention

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U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during a microphone test along with his wife Janna Ryan (R) prior to the start of the Republican National Convention on July 17, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

After months of hype, the party conventions have arrived. Republicans open theirs today in Cleveland. The convention is expected to culminate with Donald Trump accepting the GOP’s nomination for president. We caught up with a few seasoned Republicans from Wisconsin who will take part. They expect to come away satisfied.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is no stranger to the Republican National Convention – this is his fifth trip. He says each day is action-packed.

“Delegates always start with alternates and guests every morning, meeting for breakfast. They’ll bring in one of a number of well-known folks to speak, it might be a governor or a member of Congress, or potentially the presidential or vice presidential candidate to address the delegation to talk about how they see the race and where things are,” Vos says.

While Donald Trump is the GOP’s presumptive nominee, some Wisconsin delegates will not be able to vote for him on the first ballot. Vos says Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won Wisconsin’s primary, and the state’s at-large delegates have to follow certain rules.

“In Wisconsin, we are bound to vote for the nominee who carried our primary. So, I am bound to vote for Ted Cruz on the first ballot and then we’ll see what happens after that,” Vos says.

Vos says, as soon as he can, he’ll support Trump. Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson says he’ll do the same. Thompson has been a delegate at several GOP conventions throughout his long political career. But he thinks this one will be the most unusual, and expects emotions will run the gamut. There were originally 17 candidates in the Republican field.

“Each one of those candidates has one or more individuals who would like to see that person as the nominee. So, it’s going to be packed full of energy, excitement, fun, sadness and a little bit of anger,” Thompson says.

Anger, that their preferred candidate won’t get the nomination. Yet, Thompson predicts that in the end, most delegates will walk away feeling good about selecting Donald Trump. One Wisconsin politician who will be attending his first party convention is Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. He says it’s paramount for the GOP to present a united front.

“It’s time for Republicans to come together and support the nominee and I think that will be helpful in November. That’ll help Sen. Johnson, it will help us in the congressional race, it’ll help us in the state senate and the assembly to maintain our majorities,” Fitzgerald says.

Fitzgerald says he plans on spending much of his time at the convention, urging unity. He predicts the Never Trump movement won’t have much of a presence – or impact.

In addition to the serious meetings, the delegates expect to participate in a few festivities. For instance, the Wisconsin contingent will attend a late-night “beer and brats bash” and is scheduled to tour Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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