Trump's in charge, but he shouldn't take it for granted

Photo by Bob Daemmrich

Ted Cruz's suspension of his presidential campaign in early May changed the dynamics of the Texas GOP convention held in Dallas two weeks later. While the vast majority of delegates to the state convention remained Cruz supporters, there was a notable shift in attitude toward presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.

When Cruz still remained in the race as an active candidate, Cruz forces in Texas were poised to make sure that all of the Texas delegates to the upcoming Republican national convention in Cleveland were Cruz loyalists, even though Trump was entitled to nearly one-third of the delegates under convention rules. While Trump delegates from Texas would have been obligated to vote for Trump on the first two ballots, they would be free to vote however they chose to on any disputes that arose at the national convention relating to the platform, rules or credentials. Had Cruz stayed in the race, the Texas delegates for Trump effectively would have been "Trump in name only."

That didn't happen. Once it became clear that Cruz no longer was actively running for president, the mood shifted at the Dallas GOP convention. The delegate selection process for the national convention followed a more typical pattern of picking statewide elected officials, party regulars and grassroots activists to represent the Texas GOP in Cleveland. While the majority of delegates remain Cruz supporters — and some of those delegates remain part of the "never Trump" movement — the vast majority of the delegates seem ready to move on from that fight and do what is necessary to defeat Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in November.

That effort to unite the party was particularly helped by the convention speech of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who encouraged the delegates to get behind Trump. The Trump campaign also made a shrewd decision to bring Sen. Jeff Sessions from Alabama as a surrogate speaker. Sessions, who is very popular with Texas conservatives, gave a substantive speech that was well received by those delegates still in attendance on the last day of the convention.

The Trump campaign followed up a few days later by releasing a list of prospective Trump nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was viewed favorably by conservatives. That list of respected jurists included Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, a close ally of Gov. Greg Abbott. Shortly thereafter, Abbott — who had not mentioned Trump's name in his speech at the Texas GOP convention — encouraged his fellow Republicans to support Trump as well.

Barring the unforeseen, it appears that most of the Texas delegation will unite in support of Trump at the National Convention in Cleveland. But this has been a year of huge surprises on the national political front, and lightning still can strike. Cruz has yet to endorse Trump for president, and I would not be surprised if that stance doesn't prevail right up until the eve of the July convention. Even though Trump already has won a majority of delegates to ensure a first-ballot victory, the Cruz organization has been very effective in getting its supporters selected as national delegates.

The Trump campaign would be well advised not to take anything for granted, nor propose any major changes in the rules or platform at the convention that might give his opponents an opening at the last minute to push for a contested convention.

Tom Pauken

Former Texas Workforce Commission Chairman