Donald Trump won a commanding victory in Georgia’s March primary, but most of the state’s leading Republicans rallied around his rivals.
Nowhere was that more visible than last month’s GOP regional conventions, when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s allies locked down one delegate after another in districts dominated by Trump.
But Georgia Republicans were gripped with a sense of reckoning late Tuesday when the billionaire’s sweeping victory in Indiana forced Cruz out of the race – and cemented Trump as the presumptive nominee.
Even before Cruz suspended his campaign, Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland sent a message to his constituents: The GOP race for president is over.
“It’s time for the Republican Party to face the facts: the voters aren’t happy with the way our country is being governed,” he said. “The base of the Republican Party is hard working Americans who feel betrayed by our majority in both bodies of Congress. And tonight in Indiana, the silent majority and our core voters have spoken. Like it or not: they have chosen Mr. Trump.”
For Westmoreland, an early supporter of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio who is not seeking another term, the anti-establishment message could be a preview of a potential run for governor. But other GOPers soon came to the same conclusion.
“Trump will be the Republican nominee for president, and I will go ahead and say it, he will be elected president in November,” said Clint Murphy, a Republican activist in Savannah. “I will vote for him. Politics as usual has failed our country and it’s going to take an outsider to fix it.”
And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said earlier this week that Republicans should stop bickering with each other and pivot to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“If the new poll is right and Trump is leading 49-34 over Cruz, then Trump is the nominee and Republicans should start focusing on how to beat Clinton,” Gingrich told us, referring to a survey that accurately projected his victory.
Of course, the Never Trump movement hasn’t disappeared.
Will Kremer, a former chair of the Georgia College Republicans, said he’ll vote for down-ticket GOP candidates in November, but that he’s wrestling over whether to leave the presidential ballot blank or vote for a third-party candidate.
“Party loyalty has its limits,” he said. “Trump is the standard-bearer of the party and its spokesman. But what that tells me is the Republican Party has left me.”