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GOP Delegates Positive About Convention

Doug Ashley, ABC News
Flickr/Creative Commons
The 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Even though Maine Republicans supported Ted Cruz in the state presidential caucuses this year, Maine’s delegates to the Republican National Convention say Donald Trump energized them with his acceptance speech. They acknowledge that not everyone in the party is ready to embrace Trump, but they believe he can help elect candidates for state office this fall.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett is the first to admit this has been a most unusual election year. He acknowledges that a year ago he did not think Trump would be the party’s nominee, but he says Trump’s performance in Cleveland this week went a long way toward winning over skeptics, and that overall the convention was a success.

He says the intense campaigning by the 17 GOP candidates has understandably caused some of their supporters to hold off on endorsing Trump.

“There are some Republicans who are still expecting to support the nominee and want to support Donald Trump, but this was a bruiser of a primary season,” Bennett says.

Among those who are not ready to endorse Trump are 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.

Collins was a strong supporter of Jeb Bush, and says she wants to see how the campaign unfolds through the debates before she makes her decision. That is understandable, says state Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, a leader of the Ted Cruz campaign in Maine and now an enthusiastic supporter of Trump who believes Collins will eventually support him.

“She is taking a reasoned approach, that’s fine with me,” he says. “I heard what I needed to hear to endorse Donald Trump whole throated, and that’s my decision.”

Mason is running for re-election and is working to maintain the GOP majority in the state Senate. He expects Trump to win the state and provide a boost for local GOP candidates.

Bennett agrees, and predicts that Trump’s transformation of the Republican Party could mean that a GOP presidential candidate wins Maine for first time since 1988.

“Maine has gone from deep blue to purple-leaning-red in terms of politics. We have a pretty good ground game at the state-party level and there is also a very active grassroots driven group of Trump supporters,” Bennett says.

Mason says Maine delegates are homeward bound and filled with enthusiasm. And while the convention had some rocky moments, he says he’s betting more people watched the Republican convention, and Trump’s acceptance speech, than will tune in to any part of the Democratic National Convention next week.