Following another string of victories for Donald Trump during Tuesday’s primaries, New Jersey’s Republican party will have to choose between endorsing the GOP frontrunner along with Governor Chris Christie, and breaking with the governor. Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore told PolitickerNJ that while he is still undecided, Trump seems to be on a clear path to more success in the state-by-state primaries.
Ocean County, a longtime Republican stronghold, has been the fulcrum of Trump’s fundraising support from individual donors in New Jersey. Of Trump’s $18,000 in donations from New Jersey residents, $4,800 came from Ocean County in the fourth quarter of 2015. Gilmore will meet with legislators and county officials at the party’s nominating convention in Toms River on March 30.
With states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania facing the possibility of their first volatile presidential primaries in several cycles and Trump’s name still poison to many establishment Republicans, Ocean’s decision could go a long way.
Gilmore acknowledged Trump’s strong performance last night. Between Marco Rubio’s exit last night and Kasich’s sluggish performance everywhere but his home state of Ohio, Gilmore said that Trump appears stronger than ever.
“When you lose your home state it’s kind of hard to stay in the race,” Gilmore said of Rubio. “I think Kasich being a governor has the executive experience that one would like to see in a presidential candidate, but he’s got a tough row to hoe as well. Right now Trump is the odds-on favorite. Cruz is about 200, 250 delegates behind right now. You look at the map and the contests that are coming up, I think it’s going to be difficult to beat Trump at this point. Not saying impossible.”
Gilmore said that a brokered convention is not out of the question with the Republican field still split between three candidates, but added that such a move from party leaders “would create a significant disruption in the process.” A brokered convention would be the Republican establishment’s last chance of stopping Trump if he falls short of 1,237 delegates. Trump currently has 673, compared to Ted Cruz’s 411 and Kasich’s 143. 1,061 are still up for grabs.
As for Christie’s decision to endorse Trump last month, Gilmore shrugged off the venomous reactions from national and state Republicans. Many called it the death of Christie’s political career, several New Jersey papers and the formerly pro-Christie Union Leader called for his resignation, and legislators within the New Jersey GOP said the governor should step down if he decided to campaign for Trump out of state.
“The governor made an endorsement, which he had every right to do,” Gilmore said. “You cannot fault him for campaigning for Trump.”