CLEVELAND, Ohio — California was the state where Ted Cruz was going to make his last, decisive stand against Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. Instead, the California delegation to the Republican National Convention is Donald Trump’s doomsday weapon.
The state’s 172 delegates were almost entirely “hand-picked by Trump,” the Sacramento Bee reports. And the sheer size of the delegation — the convention’s largest — makes it an effective tool for Trump to use to stop any “NeverTrump” insurgency at the convention.
The California contingent has been housed far away from the convention site, 60 miles west of Cleveland, in the Lake Erie town of Sandusky. The venue: the Kalahari water park and resort, where the drought-conscious Californian delegation might enjoy the sight of precious fresh water being wasted in every direction. (Some were not so impressed by the atmosphere, reminiscent of National Lampoon’s Vacation: “It reminds me of a bad Chevy Chase movie,” one delegate told the Bee.)
Yet the delegation will be seated in the front rows for the duration of the convention, because it will present the most visible and enthusiastic bloc of Trump supporters in the Quicken Loans Arena.
The San Francisco Chronicle elaborates:
The 172-member California delegation, the nation’s largest, is Trump’s designated enforcer.
“We are the backstop,” California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte — in Hawaiian shirt — told me near the Zanzibar.
“If you want to mess, bring it on,” Trump’s California state director, Tim Clark — in flip-flops and shorts — explained. “This delegation was built for a fight. If the Never Trumpers want to start something, they have to go through us.”
Some members of the delegation have been on the Trump train forever; some, like Republican National Committeeman Shaun Steel, once called Trump a “clown” but now feel he is the best, and the only, alternative to Hillary Clinton. And one delegate, billionaire Peter Thiel — who is not staying in Sandusky — has a prime time speaking slot on the last night of the convention, when Trump accepts the GOP nomination.
The delegation has come a long way from early April, when the Cruz campaign mocked Trump’s California operation, predicting that Trump would fail to find enough delegates in each of the state’s 53 congressional districts.
Today, the delegation is strong, loyal, and — as even the East Bay Times observed — diverse, with youth, women, and minorities all represented amply.
Even the Chronicle acknowledged that the delegation’s vibe has changed. No longer is it made up of the “white-haired state senators” and “the political fanboys,” but grassroots activists like Rachel Casey, the woman who was infamously assaulted by anti-Trump demonstrators in full view of the media last month.
California was once among the states most skeptical of Trump. Today, in Cleveland, it is Trump’s most loyal.
Republicans hope that the rest of the party catches the same spirit.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, will be published by Regnery on July 25 and is available for pre-order through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.