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Some Missouri GOP presidential delegates out to oust Trump

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump points to protesters that he tells to "get out," during his speech at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis on March 11, 2016.
File photo, Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Some of Missouri’s Republican delegates to their party’s national convention in Cleveland are involved in a national “dump Trump” campaign, which appears to be gaining at least temporary steam.

Delegate Carl Bearden, a Republican from St. Charles, acknowledged Tuesday that the movement was anti-Donald Trump, currently the presumptive nominee.  But Bearden emphasized that the effort is actually a “free the delegates’’ movement, in Missouri and nationally, to allow delegates to vote their conscience.

No specific alternative candidate has been discussed, Bearden said.

However, Bearden said the effort was prompted by dissatisfaction with Trump, and his recent drops in the polls. “There are many concerns about him, not the least of which is that he can’t beat Hillary,’’ Bearden said, referring to presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“He has no conservative credentials to his record,” Bearden continued. “He knows to say the right things, but more often than not, he backtracks on them.”

Bearden said it was "too soon to say'' how many fellow delegates would join him.

Bearden exemplifies the typical Missouri GOP delegate to the convention. He had been a supporter of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump’s last major rival. But he won election as a Missouri presidential delegate bound to Trump on the first ballot.

In fact, a sizable chunk of Missouri’s delegates who, by state party rules, are required to vote for Trump didn't actually support him. They had been aligned with Cruz instead.

Cruz’s allies were successful this spring in getting elected to Trump delegate slots at the regional caucuses and at last month’s state convention.  So although 37 of Missouri’s 52 GOP presidential delegation are officially committed to Trump, who won the March 15 primary, unofficially most of them -- such as Bearden -- were not Trump supporters.

At last month’s state convention, party leaders – led by state Republican Party chairman John Hancock – emphasized the need to rally around Trump, regardless of personal preferences, to halt an otherwise likely Clinton victory.

Hancock said Tuesday, “I have every expectation that Donald Trump will be nominated in Cleveland next month.”

Some Missouri conservatives have privately discouraged efforts by Bearden and others to oust Trump because of the fear of possible long-term political damage.

Removing Trump, when he had legitimately won a majority of the delegates, could generate a party split that could hurt down-ballot candidates, those critics say. Trump also would still be around to rally allies to continue to take up his cause.

Cruz has publicly told other news outlets that he would not agree to be drafted at the convention to replace Trump.

One Missouri GOP activist said that the only peaceful way to replace Trump would be if he quit of his own volition. And so far, nobody expects that to happen.

Bearden said the anti-Trump camp likely will press the Republican National Committee to call for states to conduct "closed Republican primaries,'' where voters must register as Republicans in order to cast ballots for president.  He contended that Trump likely might not have won the nomination, because party loyalists would have sided with other contenders who were true Republicans and true conservatives.

Bearden acknowledged that he's hearing from some Trump supporters, who "are naturally upset."  But Bearden said they need to come to grips with reality: "I don't see any way where Donald Trump wins in November."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.