In a volatile year, GOP convention isn’t just about Trump

In a volatile year, GOP convention isn’t just about Trump
 
By:Fredreka Schouten
 
 CLEVELAND – On the eve of the Republican National Convention, a cluster of wealthy donors and top politicians planned to gather for a bash inside the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
 
But the party isn't about Donald Trump, who is slated to become the GOP’s nominee Thursday night. Instead, the late-night soiree at the iconic museum on Lake Erie’s shore is about saving the 54-46 Republican majority in the Senate, imperiled by the rise of Trump whose unfavorable ratings top 60% according to a RealClearPolitics average of recent polls.
 
Political conventions always offer an opportunity for donors to mingle with politicians at the state and federal level, but this year’s topsy-turvy presidential campaign has brought fresh urgency to protecting down-ballot Republicans. A newly emboldened House Democratic campaign committee recently began a seven-figure advertising buy, aimed at portraying 10 Republican incumbents in the House as Trump allies.
 
In the Senate, 24 of the 34 seats up for election in November are held by Republicans, seven in states President Obama won in 2008 and 2012.
 
“All of the donors that I deal with it are 100% focused on the Senate,” said Lisa Spies, a veteran Republican fundraiser who has helped coordinate several events at the convention for National Republican Senatorial Committee, the fundraising arm for Senate Republicans.
 
Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, who oversees the NRSC, was slated to be the featured speaker at Sunday’s gathering, billed as event to “honor the Republican leadership and members of the U.S. Senate.”
 
The Republican Governors Association also plans several events to tout their achievements and reward donors. Members of the RGA’s “executive roundtable” — 350 to 400 top donors who pay at least $25,000 a year to help sustain the group — will have access to a skybox inside the Quicken Loans Arena and can attend invitation-only receptions and dinners over the course of the four-day event.
 
“A very large number of our governors will be there, as well as candidates,” said Fred Malek, the RGA's finance chairman. With 31 governors' seats in Republican hands and five potential pickups this year in West Virginia, New Hampshire, Missouri, Vermont and Montana, Malek called the RGA “one of the few organizations that can play offense” in November.
 
 
Unpredictability could help Trump make conventions great again
 

Spies, who worked for Jeb Bush’s unsuccessful White House campaign, said the convention calendar is less crowded with presidential-focused events than in years past — a reflection of Trump’s slow start in building a fundraising operation and the ongoing controversy about his candidacy among top Republican donors.
 
(It doesn’t help that the last two Republicans to occupy the White House — former President George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush — along with last two GOP presidential nominees are staying away from the convention.)
 
Trump “hasn’t built a normal campaign,” Spies said.  “At this point, you would have coalitions and these affinity groups at the convention and you have events for them, say, a Women for Trump group.”
 
“He spent the last year degrading women,” she said. “So, why would women have any need to go to the convention, let alone do an event there?”
 
Republican donors certainly aren’t being ignored.
 
Donors to the Republican National Committee, which is taking the lead on joint fundraising with Trump’s campaign, will enjoy a range of perks. A $5,000 “convention experience” package for RNC donors who are underwriting the event includes the right to room in luxury hotels in downtown Cleveland, get “premier seating” inside the convention arena and attend parties, including a “Rock ‘n’ Conservatives” reception on Wednesday night.
Trump’s adult children also are expected to make the rounds at events with convention-goers.
 
Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump are listed among the guests at a Tuesday cocktail reception, sponsored by the Black Republican Caucus of Florida. Former presidential candidate Ben Carson, actress Stacey Dash and Omarosa Manigault, who was a contestant on Trump’s The Apprentice television show, also are slated to attend, according to the invitation.
 
Trump’s supporters say his convention will break the mold.
 
“There isn’t all the traditional parties for donors,” said Brian Ballard, a Florida lobbyist who is raising money for Trump. “It’s just going to be different. It’s not going to be run of the mill.”
 
Find more at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/2016/07/17/volatile-year-gop-convention-isnt-just-trump/87224104/


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