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A Disappointed ‘Stop Trump’ Delegate Reflects On What Went Wrong

We’ll be reporting from Cleveland all week and live-blogging each night. Check out all our dispatches from the GOP convention here.

CLEVELAND — “You’re looking at a post-mortem today, which is sad,” Selena Coppa, a Washington state delegate to the Republican National Convention and a member of the “Stop Trump” movement, told me Wednesday as we sat in the blistering midday sun in Cleveland’s Public Square. The night before, Donald Trump had officially received the Republican Party’s nomination for president, putting to an end that leaky pipe dream of some conservatives. A little ways away, the Westboro Baptist Church was launching verbal vollies into a gathering crowd while another protest group read aloud the stories of women’s abortions.

Coppa, a 33-year-old military intelligence veteran who lives in Tacoma, was part of the last-ditch efforts at this week’s convention to halt the businessman’s nomination by forcing a roll call vote to change convention rules and unbind the delegates. But the frustrations she voiced during our talk were not just about the failed parliamentary Hail Mary, but about the tone of the convention.

“I think it’s waving the bloody, bloody shirt, an attempt to get us on board,” Coppa said of the speeches during the evening program.

With hindsight, Coppa said that the “Stop Trump” grass-roots efforts didn’t want for principled conservative enthusiasm, but rather organization. She pointed to “three to four factions” of the “Never Trump” movement and said that most of the people involved were new to organizing while “the hardened politicos were sitting trying to figure out which way the wind was shifting.” Some Never Trumpers, like former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, she said, were just in the movement to lay groundwork for a Ted Cruz 2020 run, and others, like herself, were simply averse to the idea of Trump at the party’s helm.

There remains a certain amount of confusion over how exactly the Republican National Committee stopped Monday’s roll call vote — the anti-Trump coalition thought it had enough votes from state delegations, but at the last minute, three states pulled out. It remains unclear which ones.

“I know the threats were coming pretty heavy,” Coppa said, referring to the behind-the-scenes maneuvering before the roll call motion. She’d heard that one delegate had been told by an RNC whip that “when Trump got elected, he would remember not just what he did but what the state did and punish the state — there would be no funding coming for candidates.”

The landscape of delegate support, Coppa said, was mixed. She estimated that 40 percent enthusiastically back Trump, 30 percent are reluctant adopters of his cause, and the remaining 30 percent want nothing to do with him.

When asked who she’d support in November, Coppa seemed resigned to an imperfect choice.

“Probably Gary Johnson.”

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Clare Malone is a former senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight.