CLEVELAND— As each state called out its delegate vote count during Tuesday’s roll call at the Republican National Convention, the speakers inevitably concluded their tally for Donald Trump by calling him “the next president of the United States.”
And despite the objections from some delegates on the floor, Trump’s official nomination was one of the more energetic moments the Quicken Loans Arena saw since the convention got underway this week. It was a sharp contrast with the naysaying by GOP consultants at events taking place outside the arena.
The Republican Party has been publicly fissuring for years, but conventions are traditionally a time of rallying behind the nominee — or at least not throwing cold water over the possibility they could win in November.
Many of the consultants in attendance in Cleveland can’t even muster a “maybe” when it comes to Trump’s chances.
Alex Conant, a former Republican National Committee spokesman who worked for Marco Rubio during the primary, wouldn’t even entertain the idea of Trump defeating Hillary Clinton. “There’s no pathway for him,” he said Tuesday at a panel hosted by The Hill. “We cannot win the White House with the Mitt Romney model and Donald trump is under-performing Mitt Romney.”
Beyond winning the Electoral College, Conant dismissed the idea that Trump would even be competitive in battleground states. “I don’t see any way Trump is going to win Virginia,” he said.
Across Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland, other consultants were equally pessimistic. When GOP digital consultant Zac Moffatt, pollster Chris Wilson and Republican strategist Mindy Finn were asked during a panel discussion hosted by Politico to point to what Trump was doing right, there was a long pause. None of the professionals could muster something the Trump campaign was doing well.
Even the convention itself is under fire. Michael Steele, the former RNC chairman, had a tongue-in-cheek answer when asked about how the Trump confab had kicked off.
“It started off good with the accurate placement of the gavel on the podium,” he said. “And then there was voting.”
Beyond disparaging his chances and criticizing his convention, another Cleveland attendee warned that if Trump does win it could be awful for the future of the GOP.
“If Trump becomes president and can’t transform himself, I think the two-party system is going to fall apart, at least for a time,” Vin Weber, a former congressman turned lobbyist at Mercury, said Wednesday at a breakfast hosted by The Atlantic.
One of the biggest questions looming over day three of Trump’s convention is what tone his primary rival Ted Cruz will strike when he addresses the convention Wednesday. It’s still unclear whether or not Cruz will formally endorse Trump later tonight. Cruz, along with advisers Jeff Roe and Chris Wilson, made the rounds in Cleveland on Tuesday. Roe, who managed Cruz’s ’16 bid, said the senator is spending some $100k in Cleveland this week to “maintain a presence,” according to Bloomberg.
A bit of Trump optimism came from Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, a former Republican consultant. If Trump’s casual approach to his campaign carries over to governing, Cole suggested, it would be a chance for congressional Republicans to get their policy priorities passed.
“We’ve got a set of ideas that we’re ready to move and he doesn’t have that,” said Cole.