clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Sweet: Trump delegates and GOP regulars: An arranged marriage

Stephen Colbert was on the convention floor at the Republican National Convention on Sunday, posing as Caesar Flickerman from "The Hunger Games" movies. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

Follow @LynnSweet

CLEVELAND — The day before the GOP convention, Stephen Colbert, costumed as a “Hunger Games” character, was doing a bit from the podium where Donald Trump will accept his presidential nomination, political TV coverage was pre-empted by the Baton Rouge shootings, and establishment Republicans were working on their arranged marriage with some Trump delegates.

“I feel more part of the Trump campaign to tell you the truth, than the Illinois Republican Party,” said Ed Baran, an alternate 6th Congressional District Trump delegate from Bartlett who runs a commercial printing business.

“Some of them, they never had direct contact with the party before,” said Bob Bednar, a 10th Congressional District Trump delegate from Grayslake, remarking about his Trump delegate colleagues.

I asked Bednar his profession. “Professional school bus driver. Doesn’t that fit right in with the Trumpers?” he said, chiding me. I took it for what he sees as the press stereotype of Trump supporters as all wearing blue collars.

We talked in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel near the Cleveland airport, as Illinois delegates and guests were checking in on Sunday.

Trump’s convention kicks off Monday with the opening session theme “Make America Safe Again,” particularly apt in the wake of the latest tragedy in Louisiana where three police officers were shot and killed and three officers were wounded.

OPINION

Follow @LynnSweet

Illinois is seen as an easy win for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Even so, the Illinois delegate seats on the Quicken Loans Arena floor are on prime real estate, very close to the podium.

When I was checking out the “Q” on Sunday afternoon, I spotted Colbert, unrecognizable at first with his huge blue hair and blue eyebrows. He was dressed as Caesar Flickerman, the absurd host from the “The Hunger Games” movies, where else but at Trump’s convention show.

The Illinois Republican Party is running the convention operation for the Illinois delegation.

Some of the Illinois Trump delegates who had been outsiders are now finding themselves the new insiders, if measured by participation in the most traditional of activities, a national political convention.

Trump will become the party nominee on Thursday night, still calling himself an outsider, a reason, he said Saturday, that he tapped Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be his running mate.

The Illinois elected Trump delegates — who range from the conservative mainstream to the radical right — are prime recruits to actually become part of the apparatus of the state GOP party.

That’s a reason that Tim Schneider, Illinois Republican Party chairman and a Cook County Board member, was working the lobby of the Marriott on Sunday. He wants new troops on the front lines of the precincts to help elect Republicans to the Illinois General Assembly and Congress in addition to Trump.

| Tim Schneider, Illinois Republican Party chairman and a Cook County Board member, wants new troops on the front lines of the precincts to help elect Republicans to the Illinois General Assembly and Congress in addition to Trump. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times
| Tim Schneider, Illinois Republican Party chairman and a Cook County Board member, wants new troops on the front lines of the precincts to help elect Republicans to the Illinois General Assembly and Congress in addition to Trump. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

“Many of them feel like the establishment is something that’s not want they want to be part of,” Schneider told me.

“But I don’t know what they mean by the establishment. We are just the foundation and the ground team . . . every state has to have an organization. We want to include these folks and bring them into our fold because we believe this is how we expand,” he said.

Schneider’s job is harder because the top two Republicans in Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner and Sen. Mark Kirk, are not on board with Trump. Indeed, Kirk, up for re-election this November and in a tough race, has carved out a niche as the most outspoken anti-Trump senator in the nation.

I asked Bednar if he would rally around Kirk and Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill., who represents the 10th District — and who early on disavowed Trump over his divisive rhetoric.

“This is just my opinion, but Bob Dold and Mark Kirk are on their own,” he said. “They don’t want to join the party majority that is overwhelmingly behind Trump, and I think that is a shame. I think there has been too much made out of this ‘No Trump’ movement,” Bednar said.

Mike Fratella, an Elmhurst resident, is a Trump delegate from the 5th Congressional District who teaches eighth-graders science in Evanston. He has been involved in politics since he was an undergraduate at Wayne State University, so he’s in a position to straddle both worlds: the self-styled Trump renegades and off-the-shelf Republicans.

Fratella has been acting as a sort of an informal liaison between the Trump delegate factions and the regular Republicans.

Said Fratella, “I think people need to step back and look at the bigger picture.” And that is, “you can support Mr. Trump and the Republican party and all the Republicans on the ticket in November.”

Tweets by @lynnsweet