Meet The Unbound Delegates Who Helped Donald Trump Secure The Nomination NPR's Don Gonyea talks with some of the unbound delegates who decided to support Donald Trump, thereby giving him the magic number of delegates to clinch the Republican nomination.
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Meet The Unbound Delegates Who Helped Donald Trump Secure The Nomination

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Meet The Unbound Delegates Who Helped Donald Trump Secure The Nomination

Meet The Unbound Delegates Who Helped Donald Trump Secure The Nomination

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

On a day when there were no primaries, no caucuses, no voting at all, Donald Trump reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He crossed the threshold, thanks commitments from so-called unbound delegates in a handful states that have already held contests. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has been talking to some of them.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The magic number to secure the nomination is 1,237. Trump has now surpassed that, thanks to Republican Party convention delegates like Ben Koppelman, a building contractor in North Dakota who says he's the guy who put Trump over the top - maybe.

BEN KOPPELMAN: Yes, as best as I know, I was actually the last delegate. I was actually number 1,237. Now, there's some people that count me as 1,236, but...

GONYEA: Koppelman spoke on his cell phone while waiting for the start of a Trump rally in Bismarck. He says it was either him or a buddy, also a North Dakota delegate, who made the clinching pledge.

KOPPELMAN: A good friend of mine and I kind of have a little bit of a Abbott and Costello routine between who's 1,237 and who's 1,236.

GONYEA: Koppelman was a Ted Cruz supporter. Now, he says, he'll work hard for Trump. But he adds that Trump does still need to do more to flesh out his proposals on the economy, on immigration, on foreign policy.

KOPPELMAN: He needs to show people that he's got the depth in areas that are the most affecting their lives. And once he does that, I think he'll be a much better candidate.

GONYEA: Other unbound delegates getting behind Trump include Pam Pollard, the state Republican Party chair in Oklahoma.

PAM POLLARD: I support Mr. Trump because I think he brings a new dynamic to politics in America.

GONYEA: Pollard predicts the Republican Party will eventually unify behind Trump in a big way, despite the grumblings of some high profile people like 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney and those using the hashtag #NeverTrump. For GOP delegate Marc Scaringi, also unbound, but now in Trump's camp, it's a relief to know for certain there'll be no nomination fight at the convention.

MARC SCARINGI: If Trump came up short of that 1,237 prior to the convention, it was - there was going to be a real fight on the floor of the convention. And it would have been ugly, and it would have been nasty. And it would have portrayed us in a negative light in the eyes of the world.

GONYEA: Don't look for the convention to be a picture of tranquility, though. Protesters will make sure of that, but Scaringi says at least the conflict won't be between warring factions of delegates aligned to different candidates. He also jokes that now that Trump is officially the presumptive nominee, unbound delegates are suddenly a lot less popular.

SCARINGI: But it's much better for the party and for the Trump campaign that he seals the deal early.

GONYEA: These delegates lining up behind Trump is the latest sign of party unity. There are still party leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who are withholding their support, but recent polls show that about 80 percent of Republican voters are now behind Donald Trump. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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