Former Connecticut GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon applauds as state Chair J.R. Romano casts Connecticut's 28 votes for Donald Trump in 2016 MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG
Linda McMahon applauds J.R. Romano casting Connecticut's 28 votes for Trump.
Linda McMahon applauds J.R. Romano casting Connecticut’s 28 votes for Trump. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG
Linda McMahon applauds J.R. Romano casting Connecticut’s 28 votes for Trump. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

Cleveland — Donald J. Trump, the most unconventional of candidates, won the Republican nomination for president Tuesday night on the most enduring of political traditions, the state-by-state roll call that gave Connecticut’s young GOP chairman a fleeting moment in the spotlight and Trump’s oldest son a pivotal role.

Trump, the first presidential nominee since Dwight D. Eisenhower without electoral experience, thumbed his nose at nearly every convention of American politics and campaigning as he outlasted a field of 16 other candidates. He hired little staff, ran no television ads and regularly outraged the establishment.

But the Republican Party’s rules ensured he would win the nomination in time-honored fashion, with a parade of politicians stepping to a microphone to make a political or parochial point and then casting their state’s votes.

J.R. Romano, 37, elected Connecticut’s chairman a year ago, cast the state’s 28 votes for Trump, the landslide winner of the state’s primary — even if the boisterous New York billionaire was the second or third choice for some of the elected officials now supporting him as delegates.

A knot of photographers waited for small Connecticut’s big moment, following Colorado casting four votes for Trump and 31 votes for Ted Cruz. Romano stood in the aisle with Pat Longo, who is retiring from the Republican National Committee after the convention, and Charles L. Glazer, a former U.S. ambassador from Greenwich.

“I come from the land where we manufacture Pez, nuclear submarines and the home of the WWE, where men are men and the women are champions,” Romano said after 6:30 p.m. “The great state of Connecticut is casting all 28 delegates for the next president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.”

The WWE, a form of reality-TV on which Trump has appeared, is based in Stamford. Its co-founder, Linda McMahon of Greenwich, twice failed to win U.S. Senate races in 2010 and 2012, but she is now a major benefactor of the party. From her aisle seat, she was next to Romano as he voted.

The roll call was manipulated so that 40 minutes later a New York delegate named Donald Trump Jr. stepped to the microphone and said, “It is my honor to be able to throw Donald Trump over the top tonight with 89 delegates. Congratulations, dad!”

With two days until Trump closes the four-day Republican National Convention by formally accepting the nomination, Connecticut’s delegates say they are starting to believe that Trump might succeed where other GOP nominees failed in six previous races and carry Connecticut.

Pat Longo and Charles Glazer stood with J.R. Romano as Connecticut cast its vote.
Pat Longo and Charles Glazer stood with J.R. Romano as he cast Connecticut’s votes for Trump. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG
Pat Longo and Charles Glazer stood with J.R. Romano as he cast Connecticut’s votes for Trump. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

Trump was the third choice of state Rep. John Frey, a Republican National Committee member who preferred New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker before deciding the young man who fixed his car at Town Fair Tire in Danbury and the clerks at his favorite cigar shop in New Haven were right.

They all talked about Trump being different, even if offensive at times. But time and again, they told Frey and others it was time for a non-politician.

“Two were living at home with their parents. They have student loans out the kazoo. They want to try something different,” Frey said. “People want change. That puts Connecticut in play.”

Others in the delegation have their conversion stories, epiphanies on the long road to Cleveland. Most involve repeated interactions with voters enthusiastic about Trump, the reality-TV star repeatedly derided by political commentators, operatives and high-ranking Republicans as vulgar and unfit to be president.

Kevin Moynihan, a delegate and town council member from New Canaan, said his wife and her friends embraced Trump early. A backer of Mitt Romney in 2012, he started the 2016 cycle favoring Jeb Bush, then he looked at Marco Rubio.

His barber, an Italian immigrant, loved Trump.

“He’s not a politician, that’s the thing,” Moynihan said of Trump.

Smiling, Moynihan said he finally decided to agree with his wife.

Rep. Anthony D’Amelio of Waterbury, whom Trump embraced at a rally in Waterbury as the first state legislator in Connecticut to publicly endorse him, said he simply believed it was time for a political outsider, a businessman, to lead the GOP.

“I believe it’s what America needs,” he said.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, among the last of Trump’s competitors, pointedly refused to endorse him or speak at the convention, despite his status as governor of not only the host state, but a crucial swing state. The last two Republican presidents, George Bush and George W. Bush, declined to endorse, as did their son and brother, Jeb Bush.

But Charlie Glazer, long a confidant of the Bush family, said he still loves the Bush clan, but he concluded late last fall that Trump was the candidate who could win.

“I’ve had one candidate, and that’s been Donald J. Trump,” said Glazer,  “I’ve been with the campaign since January.”

At 8:10 p.m., after clearing a question about the Alaska vote, the convention chairman, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, announced the final vote: Trump, 1,725 votes; Cruz, 475; Kasich, 120; Rubio, 114; Ben Carson, 7; Bush, 3; and Rand Paul, 2.

“Accordingly,” Ryan said, following a script, “the chair announces that Donald J. Trump, having received a majority of these votes entitled to be cast at the convention, has been selected as the Republican Party’s nominee for president.”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was nominated by acclamation, and Ryan declared Trump and Pence as the GOP’s 2016 ticket.

The delegates did not leave without one unconventional moment from their nominee. Trump addressed them via satellite from New York, appearing larger than life on the high-definition screen that dominates the stage.

“Getting the party’s nomination is something I will never, ever forget. A little over one year ago I announced my candidacy for president, and with your vote today this stage of the presidential process has come to a close,” Trump said. “Together, we’ve achieved historic results — the largest vote total in the history of the Republican Party. This is a movement, but we have to go all the way.”

Donald J. Trump appeared once again, this time on screen.
Donald J. Trump appeared once again, this time on screen. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG
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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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