Trump embarks on unconventional GOP convention

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Cleveland — Donald Trump’s Republican National Convention will be as unconventional as his candidacy for the nation’s highest office.

Two living former presidents named George Bush aren’t going to speak, much less attend. The GOP’s last two presidential nominees — John McCain and Mitt Romney — have had run-ins with nominee Trump and aren’t on his speakers’ list.

The same goes for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — two of the dozen brand-name Republican politicians Trump steamrolled in the primaries.

Live: GOP kicks off convention; Trump plans visit

Although Trump has granted some elected GOP leaders time on his convention stage, the New York businessman has amassed an unconventional lineup of speakers. Some Michigan Republican leaders are staying away from the convention hall, including more than half ofthe state’s GOP congressional delegation.

The eclectic group expected to trumpet the celebrity real estate tycoon’s presidential qualifications includes the manager of Trump’s Virginia winery, Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White, Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” reality television fame, soap operas stars Antonio Sabato Jr. and Kimberlin Brown, gambling mogul Phil Ruffin and gay tech billionaire Peter Thiel.

“He has an ability to bring in celebrities and business leaders and I think that will actually bring more interest to the convention,” said Matt Hall, a Trump delegate from Grand Rapids. “Because honestly, (conventions) can be kind of boring hearing politician after politician talk.”

Trump’s wife, Melania, is scheduled to speak Monday night; his adult children Tiffany and Don Jr. are slated to speak Tuesday; son Eric Trump addresses the delegates Wednesday and daughter Ivanka Trump is expected to speak Thursday night before her father.

Protesters expected to rock against Trump in Cleveland

“We’re not going to have the traditional wall-to-wall speakers from Washington,” Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said Sunday. “We feel that the personal story of Donald Trump is something that needs to be told, and it will be told through their eyes best.”

Chuck Yob, a former Michigan Republican National Committeeman and veteran of eight national conventions, said the programing reflects Trump’s celebrity-driven campaign.

“I welcome a change and new stuff happening,” said Yob, who is supporting Trump but officially attending the convention as a Kasich delegate.

Though Trump’s prime time speech is scheduled during the traditional final night slot, his campaign chairman did not rule out the possibility of Trump showing up in the convention hall during every night of his convention.

“He will probably be making a couple of appearances,” Manafort said.

Several of Michigan’s Republican elected leaders will be effectively missing in action as their party formally nominates Trump to take on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the fall election.

Four years ago, Gov. Rick Snyder stood on the convention floor in Tampa and nominated Romney for president. This year, the embattled second-term Republican governor is coming into Cleveland on Thursday just to host a mid-day brunch with Michigan delegates at the Cleveland Public Library.

“I will be in Cleveland, briefly,” Snyder told reporters last week. “Really to go meet with the Michigan delegation and make sure that I can have a good dialogue. There are good Michiganders there. So I want to be supportive of their participation.”

After the three-hour event, Snyder is dashing back to Michigan, making no stop on the convention floor at Quicken Loans Arena, according to his office.

“I’m going to stay, working across the state and doing good things here,” Snyder said.

On Monday, Snyder was scheduled to be in the Upper Peninsula’s Gogebic County to look at damage from last week’s severe weather outbreak in the region, according to the governor’s office.

Five members of Michigan’s nine-member Republican congressional delegation won’t be making an appearance in Cleveland — and others aren’t staying for the entire week.

U.S. Reps. Candice Miller of Harrison Township, Tim Walberg of Tipton, Dan Benishek of Crystal Falls and Fred Upton of St. Joseph are not attending and their offices would not officially state why. U.S. Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, decided to spend time with family and do constituent work in the 11th Congressional District, campaign spokesman Stu Sandler said Monday.

Upton has refused to support Trump’s candidacy. Trott, Benishek and Miller have endorsed the real estate mogul. Miller has been focused on running for Macomb County public works commissioner while her time in Congress winds down, and Benishek is retiring from Congress.

Walberg has said he supports the nominee and faces a tough re-election back home in south-central Michigan’s 7th Congressional District against Democratic state Rep. Gretchen Driskell of Saline.

Walberg “has a packed schedule” this week in the district that includes small business tours, constituent meetings and a Vietnam Commemoration Pin Ceremony in Washtenaw County, said Walberg campaign spokesman Stephen Rajzer.

“Congressman Walberg uses his in-district time to meet with and listen to constituents all across his district,” Rajzer said in a Monday email.

For state Republican officials and candidates, this year’s mid-July convention conflicts with the fast-approaching Aug. 2 primary. Every national convention since 1968 has been held in August or September, with the exception of the July 1980 gathering at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

“I don’t see any reason to wander to Cleveland and be part of the morass down there,” said Paul Mitchell, a retired businessman seeking the GOP nomination in a five-candidate 10th Congressional District primary.

On Sunday afternoon in Cleveland, Michigan Republicans organized a “Leadership Luncheon” for delegates and invited all nine GOP members of Congress to speak. But only U.S. Reps. John Moolenaar of Midland and Bill Huizenga of Zeeland attended.

Moolenaar said Sunday he plans to formally endorse Trump on Monday. “We need Republican leadership to move our country in a better direction, and I believe it’s important that we don’t allow Hillary Clinton to become our next president,” he told The Detroit News.

Huizenga has been withholding support for Trump until the celebrity tycoon clarifies his views on the monetary policy and the executive powers of the president. Moolenaar and Huizenga supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the primaries.

Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley held competing parties in Cleveland over the weekend, but they seemed more designed to position themselves for possible 2018 gubernatorial bids. Calley is a Kasich delegate.

Schuette is the one Michigan Republican with a speaking role, tentatively scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Michigan’s 59 delegates include nine members of the Legislature and one member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, who is a delegate for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Amash has so far declined to support Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, a convention alternate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is hosting a mid-day Monday reception for Michigan Republicans. House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, is putting on a Tuesday lunchtime event for delegates.

Michigan’s GOP leaders

What the state’s top elected Republicans are doing about the convention:


Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Attorney General Bill Schuette, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester, U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland, U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar of Midland, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Cascade Township

Not attending

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller of Harrison Township, U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek of Crystal Falls, U.S. Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham

Briefly dropping by

Gov. Rick Snyder (Thursday only).On Monday, he is visiting Gogebic County in the Upper Peninsula to look at the damage caused by last week’s severe weather.

Source: Detroit News research