EXCLUSIVE — Kevin Cramer: North Dakota Caucus ‘Would Have Been Overwhelmingly Trump’

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a rally in Bethpage, Long Island, New York on April 6, 2016.
Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images
Washington, DC

North Dakota’s only Congressman, Republican Kevin Cramer, tells Breitbart News that if his state had held a caucus or primary this year, he thinks voters would have chosen Donald Trump. He added that the “tone-deafness” of party leadership is “an electoral problem.”

“If we had had a caucus or a primary…I think it would have been overwhelmingly Trump,” Cramer told Breitbart News during a phone interview. Cramer has endorsed Trump.

Because North Dakota didn’t hold a caucus or primary and constituents weren’t able to participate in the GOP primary process, Cramer created an online straw poll last month.

“I worked with the RNC and our state party to find a way to allow me to at least get a sense of where rank and file Republicans are because this tone deafness of our party leadership, whether you’re a Trump person, Cruz person or something else, is really an electoral problem. I think it’s a disease frankly,” Cramer charged. “So, I did an online straw poll that ran from early February to early March through Super Tuesday. In that poll, about 5,000 North Dakotans participated.”

“Of those 5,000 people, 38 percent chose Trump, 26 chose Cruz,” he added. “Most people were grateful that I gave them a voice.”

“They were very frustrated especially [in] a year like this, it’s sort of like getting tickets to the Super Bowl and no one lets you go. They were very frustrated,” Cramer explained about his constituents, adding they were “suspicious because everything that’s happened” during this election cycle.

North Dakota’s 28 delegates will go to the Republican National Convention unbound since there was no state caucus or primary. Republican National Committeeman for North Dakota Curly Haugland explained that in the past, North Dakota delegates were also unbound at the Republican National Convention.

“We never have held real ‘caucuses.’ In recent cycles, we have had straw polls that we called ‘caucuses,’” Haugland told Breitbart News.

Cramer’s interview came after Politico reported that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stacked the deck with delegates favorable to him in North Dakota’s state convention, which was held last weekend.

“North Dakota’s Republican Party, their leadership, chose not to hold a presidential caucus this year and rather send our 28 delegates to the caucus unbound, which I found objectionable,” Cramer explained.

He said he thought not holding a caucus or primary meant, “That we robbed the rank and file Republicans in North Dakota the opportunity to weigh in and provide that informative advice to delegates at the national convention especially at a time when what we should be doing as political parties is to pay attention to [what] people outside of our power structure are saying.”

North Dakota is not a big state. It is, however, a large congressional district – 188,320 North Dakotans voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. We had our own problems at our convention that year because at the caucus that year, first place quite substantially went to Rick Santorum. Ron Paul finished second and Mitt Romney third. And anybody that was a Romney or Santorum supporter was sort of locked out of that process of going to the convention. Well, this year, they doubled down by not having a caucus at all. I just found that so objectionable.

Cramer said he decided not to be a delegate.

“I said I would endorse Donald Trump and help others persuade him as well,” Cramer explained, saying it would allow him “to be an outsider” in the process.

“I’m not frustrated with their operation on the ground in North Dakota,” Cramer said of the Trump campaign’s delegate strategy.

“I don’t think there’s any question that within that convention hall among the 1,600 delegates that Cruz was a favorite,” Cramer explained, saying it wouldn’t have made any sense for Trump volunteers and staff to identify supporters. “That would have been giving the majority intelligence.”

“He was the perfect surrogate,” Cramer said of Dr. Ben Carson, who also endorsed Trump, and joined Cramer in North Dakota to meet with delegates. “I’ve talked to delegates who are going to the National Convention who have [gone] from being a hard line Cruz supporter to leaning Cruz supporter. I’ve talked to people who are leaning Cruz supporters to being open ended, open minded.”

“The Carsons and I spent hours with small groups of delegates and people of influence, explaining why Donald Trump can be a unifier and there should be voice given to this,” he added. “I think that’s the advantage going forward that we have. I don’t think there was any way Trump was going to come out of our convention, based on the make up of the delegates, with the vast majority of delegates based on their support of him. But after the fact, I think there’s a lot of opportunity.”