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Colorado's Cruz-Leaning GOP Tries To Make Peace With Trump

Max Goldberg
Iowa State Daily
Donald Trump, seen speaking here in Ames, Iowa Jan. 19, 2016, is now the apparent nominee after rivals Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich bowed out of the primary race.

Colorado Republicans were mixed on the news that Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out of the presidential race. That leaves New York businessman Donald Trump as the apparent nominee. He has rattled the Republican Party establishment, and there's a lot of political calculating going on from the GOP as well as the Democrats.

The message from Colorado Republicans after the state convention was clear: We want Cruz. Much like with the state's Dems, who mostly lean toward Bernie Sanders, what happens if the preferred nominee isn't the final candidate?

State Sen. Kevin Grantham (R-Canyon City) was disappointed that Trump is on his way to the nomination.

"You can't not be, when you're backing one horse and the other one wins," he said.

It seems a tough road ahead for Trump to heal wounds like these in Colorado, where Cruz swept the convention delegates. Grantham is no supporter of the Democratic candidates, but he just doesn't trust Trump.

"There's just a lot of people feel the system is rigged. A great many people in the middle, they feel there's nothing in it for them. I think his success is a reflection of that frustration. I don't think he's the right choice."

"He supports many of the things that we oppose, and he's changed his opinion on many of these things over the course of his candidacy," Grantham said. "There's still a deep divide that's going to have to be dealt with in our party. I look forward to him proving his conservative credentials that he claims to have."

Grantham isn't alone. Several in the party expressed qualms with Trump.

"He's the lesser of the evils, but my fear about him is just that he has no patience to deal with the Congress, and that he would be executive order on steroids," said state Rep. Kathleen Conti (R-Littleton).

Of course, what alternatives do Republicans have at this point?

"I'm hearing growing support for Gary Johnson," Conti said as she laughed boisterously.

Johnson was the Libertarian Party nominee for president in the 2012 election.

Others were less jovial, Rep. Yeulin Willett (R-Grand Junction) said at this point he's not even sure he will vote for a presidential candidate from either party in November.

"I'm frankly disappointed as an American in both parties and their candidates," Willett said.

"I put a lot of credence in track record, credibility, and trust, and I don't have it with either one of them."

Willett is assuming that Hillary Clinton will best Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination. Still, Trump has his fans in Colorado.

"The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the blue collar people, the people out there working 8-to-5, they're not happy with what's happening in D.C. right now," said Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose).

There's another draw for Coram, beyond the change he feels Trump can bring, the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy.

"I'm more comfortable with Donald Trump than I am Hillary Clinton in choosing what I consider a more middle of the road Supreme Court, [one] that actually rules on legal issues rather than on political views."

Across the aisle, even Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper gives Trump some points.

"There's just a lot of people feel the system is rigged," Hickenlooper said of his ability to tap into working class frustrations. "A great many people in the middle, they feel there's nothing in it for them. I think his success is a reflection of that frustration. I don't think he's the right choice."

Other Democrats, like Sen. Jessie Ulibarri of Westminster, offer sharpened criticism of Trump. Noting that a reality TV star is closing in on the office of the President of the United States, he hopes voters will deny Trump.

"We want a great place for our kids to grow up in, that isn't a place that's inspired by fear and hatred and division," Ulibarri said. "We're responsible for our current political reality, and we all have an ability to change the course of human events by our participation, by showing up."

As one prominent Democrat, Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst said… "All elections are unpredictable until the votes are counted, and that will be the case for this one."

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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