Ray Mock is walking back and forth along the gold rope line of voters passing out red, white and blue business cards with his name on them and asking Washington Republicans to vote for him. Mock is indirectly working on behalf of Ted Cruz’s bid to be Republicans’ presidential nominee. But in the most immediate sense, he’s competing for a trip to Cleveland.
Welcome to Washington Republicans 2016 presidential caucus, a one-day event that’s a nomination challenge, a “This Town”-style gathering of top officials and D.C. residents and a conservative popularity contest.
Here at the Madison Loews hotel Saturday, Republicans are voting in two races. The first race, to determine how D.C. will split up its 19 delegates for the GOP nomination, involves a bit of tricky math: Three delegates come from the Republican National Committee, and their support goes to the candidate who wins the most votes. 16 delegates are doled out proportionally based on candidates percentage of the total vote, with only candidates who collect more than 15 percent getting a cut. And if someone tops 50 percent of the vote, they scoop up all 19 delegates, leaving the other candidates out of luck.
The second race is where things get a bit personal—and that’s where Mock comes in.
He’s of 160 Washington Republicans competing for 16 delegate spots (and 16 alternates) that the District’s Republican Party will send to the GOP convention in Cleveland in July. He even has a website: raymock.com.
Mock, a lobbyist by day, supports Ted Cruz and has been endorsed as a delegate candidate by the Texas senator’s campaign. But should he win a spot in Cleveland, he and his fellow delegates initial votes will be based on the caucus results—not on personal feelings. But if none of the candidate collect enough delegates to win outright, however, Mock would be free to support from whomever he wanted in subsequent rounds of competition at a brokered convention.
“I think it’s gonna be exciting I’m not sure anybody is gonna get 1,237, so I think if you want to be a delegate this is the year to be one,” Mock told POLITICO, referencing the idea of a brokered convention. “My pitch to them [voters] is I’m a trusted conservative I’m gonna go to Cleveland and make the right choice for the party.”
Mock is a bit player in a large cast of conservatives.
Multiple people told POLITICO they had waited an hour and a half before even entering the caucus site, standing in lines that start around the block and squiggle through the hotel, up the stairs and through multiple ballrooms they chat with the people who are running to be delegates.
Elizabeth Sinclair, who is dressed in pearls and has the word “Trump” rhinestoned onto her collar, is working one of the Donald Trump tables at the event. Hers has a vase of tulips, Trump signs and an American flag hung on the wall. She’s passing out cards telling people about who she is and why she supports Trump.
“He basically is a very, very strong man America needs a strong man in charge of our country now. Our country is at war inside America – we are divided, inside, and we are also at war outside. We can’t have any more noodles,” she said. “Weakness invites, it invites attacks and we need somebody tough like Donald Trump.”
“We’ve never had anybody like this, I never thought this would happen in my lifetime that we would be able to take America back,” she said, adding that she’s not an evangelical but she believes his candidacy is “divine providence.”
Sinclair said she’s okay with the fact that Trump swears because he “doesn’t swear too much,” but she does have a problem with the way he makes fun of people. She has even tweeted him and his campaign to tell them so: “I think most ladies and even some men don’t like that he makes fun of people,” she said, calling the time Trump made fun of a physically disabled New York Times reporter “unnecessary and not very smart.”
Sinclair is something of a socialite at the event, she keeps seeing people she knows and hopping up from her table to pass out Trump stickers. At one point during her interview with POLITICO she sees a woman she knows and tries to hand her Trump literature. “I’m spoken for,” the women responds while pointing to a Marco Rubio sticker.
Next to a different Trump table than Sinclair’s (there are a lot of them here) is the #NeverTrump table where four men are passing out negative articles about Trump and brochures about the delegate candidates who refuse to vote for the bombastic billionaire.
Joshua Bolton, who is an economic consultant, is running to be a candidate delegate, but he’s doing it largely by accident.
“I’m a former Jeb Bush delegate, and I’ve gotten together with a couple of other delegates and we’re promoting #NeverTrump. It is encouraging D.C. Republicans to vote for any candidate delegate that will oppose Trump all the way,” Bolton said.
He was supposed to be a delegate candidate for Bush, but after the former governor dropped out in February, Bolton was going to sit out his delegate race — until people started asking him which candidates wouldn’t vote for Trump and his name was still on the ballot.
“We’ve had such an enthusiastic reaction at our #NeverTrump table, people asking us which delegates will oppose Trump the whole way that we’re just giving them our names,” Bolton said.
“So you’re running now?” POLITICO asked.
“I guess we are,” Bolton said, he added that if he’s selected he will be a delegate for any candidate but Trump. He said he doesn’t have to seek people out in line because they’re coming up to their table on their own accord.
Asked if it awkward being right next to a Trump table, Bolton says the two groups have talked a little and it’s been “civil.”
Dana Hudson is running as a delegate for Rubio because she thinks “the differences in candidates are pretty extraordinary this year.”
“I’m just letting them know that I’ve been very active in the party for my entire life and I’m very excited about this year,” Hudson, who is a government relations consultant, said. She said that Rubio’s policies on national security and defense are right up her alley.
Justin Dillon, a lawyer, is standing outside of the hotel holding two signs for John Kasich, he’s also running to be a delegate, but he keeps forgetting to tell people that.
“How are you campaigning specifically to be a delegate?” POLITICO asks.
“Holding signs up and smiling,” Dillon responds.
Are you giving them your name and saying “vote for me?” POLITICO asks.
“I probably should say more of that, I’ve never campaigned for something since sixth grade secretary,” Dillon says.
Dillon says he lost that elementary race. He—along with Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich—will find out how he fared this time around when results are announced Saturday night.
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