Delegates, Party Faithful Sound Off As Cruz Sweeps Trump Aside In Colorado
Just three months out from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Republican Party remains very much divided over their candidates for president. Ted Cruz closed Donald Trump's lead Saturday, sweeping all of Colorado's 34 open delegates at the GOP state assembly in Colorado Springs.
Republicans here though are as split as anywhere else in the country over the race.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's Saturday speech was the highlight for many of the 7,000 Republicans. They listened and applauded as Cruz rallied them on issues like jobs and homeland security – then he spoke about his biggest rival.
"It's easy to talk about making America great again, you can even put that on a baseball cap," Cruz said of the front runner, Donald Trump, "but the question is do you understand the principals and values that made America great in the first place?"
Trump wasn't there to issue a retort. He was visiting a 9/11 memorial museum in New York and sent a surrogate, passing on the chance to connect with voters like Brad Tutor of Gunnison, Colorado.
"It has been a lot of smoke and mirrors and a lot of hype," Tutor said. "And I think he hasn't thought out plans as foreign policy, the economy, health care and things like that."
Republicans had been selecting delegates at each congressional district assembly and 13 were awarded Saturday. Attendee Rob Blancken of Colorado Springs – a Cruz supporter – was vying for one of those coveted Cleveland delegate spots along with 600 others.
"He's almost disliked by as many Republicans in the U.S. Senate as Democrats in the U.S. Senate, so that must say something, he's doing something right," he said. "We haven't seen this nation this divided since the 1860s, so it's critical we get a candidate that will unite the country."
Blancken was wearing a sign around his neck that said "unpledged tea party member." Justin Hayward from Park County, south of Breckenridge, approached him in the hallway tying to convince him to switch his support to Trump.
"He's saying the things that nobody seemingly the balls to say. What we have got to do about the Mexican border, what we're doing with immigration," said Hayward.
Blancken responded that he has no problem with what Trump is saying but has no faith he'll fulfill because he has no idea how politics work.
"But do we have any faith that any of the career politicians are going to do it?" Hayward asked.
Despite supporting Trump, the businessman isn't Hayward's dream candidate. Like several other Republican voters he's concerned about some of the things Trump has said, and how it would resonate with the larger electorate in a general election.
"He's stuck his foot in his mouth, I mean horribly, and I really don't think that's the person he is," Hayward said. "But no, he's not a politician, he doesn't know how to go up there and say what's supposed to be said, unfortunately that's a little bit of his appeal, is the lack of filter."
A former lifelong Democrat – Rebecca Conway from Greeley – was also in the crowd. She became a Republican six years ago, frustrated by what she sees as too much political correctness among Democrats. She likes Trump.
"Key issues will be effectiveness, ability to actually lead and not be so dogmatic that you don't get the country where it needs to go, and you have to compromise."
She hopes Trump's brashness in business will translate into deals in Congress.
"He's worked with lots of people to make things happen, and I haven't seen that from Sen. Cruz yet," Conway said. "Maybe he can, but he hasn't convinced me of that yet."
Among the younger voters was Brian Smyth, 28, of Colorado Springs. If Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president, Smyth said he will vote for a third party or write-in candidate.
"Abortion is a big issue to me, probably the most critical issue, and I don't sense that he's strong enough on that. Like he says it, but I have trouble believing he really is prolife just based on what I've seen and heard from him."
After contests in Colorado and South Carolina, Trump lost ground to Cruz. He now has 743 delegates. Cruz has 566 – something the GOP frontrunner, and prolific tweeter, later harped on.
How is it possible that the people of the great State of Colorado never got to vote in the Republican Primary? Great anger - totally unfair!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2016
As the race for the nomination trundles on, many are increasingly suspecting that the GOP convention will be contested. You can count one of the state party assembly attendees, Brad Tutor, among those prognosticators.
"I know that Trump's got the majority of the delegates at this point in time, but I don't think he'll have all of them when we get to the convention."