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How GOP Delegates Are Reacting To Cruz’s Speech

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

CLEVELAND — After three days of a rocky Republican National Convention, and watching the wheels come off Ted Cruz’s speech Wednesday night, I’m finding myself thirsting for context. Is this a 1964 Nelson Rockefeller moment, or just a kinda-weird-but-pretty-normal nominating event? So I spent Thursday morning chatting up people who’ve been to multiple conventions to try to get their perspective.

By and large, most people agreed that this was a strange one. But over and over, delegates told me that the rockiness was part of a clarifying process and that Donald Trump’s speech tonight would seal the deal on party unity.

Vincent Muscarella, a Nassau County legislator from New York (has attended three conventions), said that this year “hasn’t gone as smoothly as perhaps we’d like.”

“I don’t ever recall there being something like we saw last night,” he said about the way the crowd turned against Cruz. “But emotion is good. It means that people have a commitment. And when those commitments sometimes clash, you get some emotion. It shows we’re passionate.”

The imperfections “give people at home a connection,” said Gary Byrne of Philadelphia (five conventions). Viewers get to see that “it’s real. It’s not actually a movie.” But he conceded that other years have been “more polished, more rhythmic” than this one.

That seemed to be the theme, even from the delegation from Cruz’s home state, Texas. They were particularly stung by Cruz’s non-endorsement of Trump. The buzzword of the day? “Disappointed,” said in the tone your mom used when she shook her head and said, “I’m not mad; I’m disappointed.”

Barbara Woodroof of Gunter, Texas, who said she voted for Cruz in the primary and is at her second convention, was in the hall Wednesday night for Cruz’s speech. She called him “a man of character” but said she “really did feel that in this particular case he could have at least expressed the fact that we need to endorse Mr. Trump.”

For what it’s worth, as someone who’s been to five conventions, here’s my take: Conventions are always bizarre spectacles. There are always rocky moments and clunky speeches. But they tend to tighten and coalesce as the event goes on and builds toward the final night. This convention seems to be doing the opposite. It started off sleepy, then got awkward, then got raucous. I don’t know what the next adjective on that progression is, but whatever comes will probably be … memorable.

As Byrne, the delegate from Philadelphia, described the lurching quality of the week: “If Mr. Trump is your guy, then you don’t mind. That’s the process.”

CORRECTION (July 21, 11:55 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of a delegate and misstated how many conventions she has attended. Her name is Barbara Woodroof, not Barbara Woodruff, and this is her second convention, not her first. It also misstated how many conventions Vincent Muscarella has attended; this is his third, not his fourth.

FiveThirtyEight: Attendees compare 2016 event to prior conventions

Jody Avirgan hosts and produces podcasts for FiveThirtyEight.