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Missouri GOP delegates happily hop aboard the Trump Train

Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio
The delegation poses in the room where they heard from speakers during the Republican convention.

CLEVELAND – Regardless of who they backed before, Missouri’s GOP delegates are leaving their convention committed to electing Donald Trump for president.

And his acceptance speech was a hit.

“He was confident, he was strong, he was energetic, enthusiastic’’ said delegate Chuck Williams of Town and Country. “He had the crowd fired up.”

But Chris Howard of Ballwin, who sits on the Republican state committee, speculates that Trump appealed even more to those who watched him on television.

“Overall, I think he spoke to all the things that have frustrated your average American — jobs and safety,’’ Howard said. “The average American, this was their speech. He gave a ‘blue-collar’ average American speech that they wanted to hear.”

Delegate Doug Moore holds the state convention banner.
Credit Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio
Delegate Doug Moore holds the state convention banner.

Amy Poelker, a delegate from St. Ann, was among several who praised Trump’s attempt to reach out to the LGBTQ community. “He was bringing unity to the party,’’ Poelker said.

To some, Ted Cruz’s decision not to endorse Trump in his Wednesday night address may have helped unify the party because even some of Cruz’s allies thought he’d made a mistake.

As a result, several delegates said they were eager to move on to focus solely on Trump, and the need to elect him to the White House.

“I loved how he said ‘we’re going to do this together,’ ” said delegate Sara Walsh, of Ashland, Mo.

Trump may have helped his case among Missouri activists with his upfront appeal to religious conservatives, who make up a significant bloc of the state’s GOP vote.

Said social-conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly: “I thought it was about the best political speech I’ve ever heard.”

Speech capped busy week

Although Missouri’s delegates spent their evenings in Cleveland at the convention center, their days were pretty packed as well.

Since Monday, delegates and alternates gathered every morning for breakfast at their hotel in Akron, where they listened to various high-profile speakers, including Dr. Ben Carson, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Hardee’s executive Andrew Puzder.

Other states deemed to be tougher battlegrounds this fall, such as North Carolina, got the really big-names, such as Trump’s children.

Missouri delegates also spent each day on some sort of excursion.

Energized delegates return from the convention night.
Credit Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio
Energized delegates return from the final convention night.

Explained state Republican Party chairman John Hancock, who oversaw the trips: “We try to put together an experience for our delegates that’s entertains them, feeds them, informs them.”

They visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, took an historic train through the Cuyahoga Valley, and drove into Canton to take in the National First Ladies Museum, the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the museum and memorial honoring the nation’s 25th president (and fellow Republican), William McKinley.

St. Louis County Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, a delegate alternate, had praise for the entire week. “The whole process has been educational and eye-opening.”

By the closing breakfast on Thursday, Missouri national committeewoman Susie Eckelkamp quipped, “It kind of feels like the last day of summer camp.”

But once back home, the Republican delegates pledge to hit the streets to campaign for their candidates — including Trump.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.