Mich. GOP chief Romney McDaniel becomes Trump delegate

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Michigan Republican Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said Thursday she will pledge her national delegate vote to presidential front-runner Donald Trump since the New York billionaire won last month’s primary.

McDaniel said she and Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden will fill two of Trump’s 11 at-large delegates. Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema is expected pledge his vote to Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz when delegates are selected at this weekend’s Michigan Republican Party state convention in Lansing.

The state chairwoman’s Trump pledge comes after her uncle, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, mounted a concerted national effort to deny Trump the nomination.

In 2012, McDaniel campaigned for her uncle’s GOP presidential campaign in Michigan and was beside her father, Scott Romney, at the Tampa, Florida, national convention when he cast 25 of the state delegation’s 30 votes for Mitt Romney.

“I’m going to go with the voters of Michigan,” McDaniel told The Detroit News.

Trump won 36.5 percent of the 1.3 million votes cast in Michigan’s March 8 Republican presidential primary, capturing 25 of the state’s 59 delegates. Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich each won 17 delegates to the July 18-21 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Since Michigan’s primary, the three campaigns have been studying rank-and-file Republicans seeking votes in what could be the first national GOP convention since 1976 in which there is no outright winner from the primaries.

If a Republican candidate does not win 1,237 delegate votes to secure the party’s presidential nomination on the convention’s first ballot, bound delegates become free agents who aren’t required to vote for their declared candidate.

“We’re approaching these conventions ... as opportunities to reach out to each delegate to secure support, whether that’s publicly or privately,” said Emmalee Kalmbach, a spokeswoman for the Kasich campaign.

More than 200 Michigan Republicans have applied to fill the remaining 56 national convention delegate seats at stake during the two-day convention, McDaniel said. The state party is not releasing the names of individuals seeking national delegate seats ahead of the convention, she said.

Jockeying for delegate seats

A handful of Republicans have declared their candidacies publicly through social media and emails to rank-and-file Republicans.

Former state Sen. Roger Kahn of Saginaw County sent an email declaring his candidacy for a Trump seat in mid-Michigan’s 4th Congressional District.

Kahn’s candidacy drew immediate suspicions from conservative blogger Brandon Hall, who declared on his West Michigan Politics blog the former two-term state senator is a “Kahn artist” trying to “hijack” a Trump delegate position.

But Kahn maintains he is firmly on the Trump bandwagon. He fashions himself after Trump — a politician who sometimes “trips on his tongue.”

“That endears him to me. ... I fully intend to vote for Trump,” Kahn told The News. “Cruz is not my flavor at all.”

Most jockeying for national delegate seats will take place Friday night during 14 congressional district caucus meetings at the Lansing Center and nearby Radisson Hotel.

Trump, Cruz and Kasich each get one delegate per congressional district.

“From what I’m hearing and what I’m seeing on the ground, it seems like the districts are making a concerted effort that the delegates awarded to Trump, Cruz and Kasich are actually going to be supporters of those candidates,” McDaniel said.

The state Republican Party also is working with the campaigns to ensure each candidate’s supporters are assigned at-large delegate seats, she said.

During a late night meeting Friday, the state GOP’s powerful Credentials Committee will nominate a slate of at-large delegates to be voted on the next day by the 2,139 state convention delegates.

“Obviously the stakes are higher for each of the campaigns, and they are really pushing that any delegate who takes a bound slot for them is someone who will maintain that loyalty to that candidate if there are multiple ballots,” McDaniel told The News.

At the national convention, Michigan’s delegates would be bound on a first-round ballot to vote for the candidate they were sent to Cleveland to represent. After that, they could switch their votes — a scenario that hasn’t played out in a Republican convention since 1948.

Nationally, Trump leads in the race and has the best chance to clinch the nomination and avoid a contested national convention. There are 882 delegates still up for grabs in 16 nominating contests over the next nine weeks.

Trump has won 743 delegates, while Cruz has captured 517. Kasich has won 143 delegates and still trails behind the 171 delegates Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio captured before dropping out of the race last month.

Kasich tries to woo delegates

The Kasich campaign is trying to woo potential national convention delegates in the Trump and Cruz camps to consider voting for the Ohio governor if no one captures the nomination outright, Kalmbach said.

“We’re making sure that all delegates are aware of Gov. Kasich and his experience and electability and the fact that he’s the only candidate who can beat Hillary (Clinton) this fall,” Kalmbach said.

Trump’s campaign has signaled the most concern about getting delegates who won’t stick with the businessman if there are multiple rounds of voting at the national convention.

“We need to ensure the correct delegates are sent to represent him,” Trump state director Scott Hagerstrom said Wednesday in an email to supporters.

Hagerstrom previously warned about “imposters” infiltrating Trump’s delegate ranks at the behest of one of the other campaigns.

Wendy Day, Cruz’s state director, said “other campaigns” are stirring up fears about “scary shenanigans” at the state convention.

“We’re not going to whine about it,” said Day, who will be vying for a Cruz delegate seat in the 8th Congressional District. “This is politics. It’s just another step in getting to the White House, and either you have the infrastructure or you don’t.”


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Twitter: @ChadLivengood

Michigan GOP convention

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: Lansing Center, 333 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing

Entry: Members of the public can attend if they show photo ID. Donald Trump’s campaign is encouraging non-delegates to show up.

Schedule: Friday: 7 p.m. — Congressional district caucus meetings. 11 p.m. — State party Credentials Committee meeting. Saturday: 9 a.m. — State convention convenes. Election of national convention delegates. Election of Republican National Committee members.

Coverage: Follow at detroitnews.com