Donald Trump’s efforts to unite the Republican Party and drum up support among those who did not back him during primary season appears to be running flat with the GOP national convention just a month away.
The New York real estate mogul and presumptive Republican nominee tried to secure support from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community this week in the wake of last Sunday’s massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left 49 dead. Gay liberals, however, characterized his pitch as pandering, the Hill reported.
At the same time, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has met with Trump several times and gave him a lukewarm endorsement, appeared to give Republicans permission not to vote for the party’s presumed standard-bearer in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
And the July 18-21 convention in Cleveland may turn into a free-for-all as the “Anybody but Trump” movement tries to change party rules, unbinding delegates currently pledged to the candidate amid opinion polls indicating Trump’s popularity sinking.
Wells Fargo, UPS, Motorola Solutions, JPMorgan Chase, Ford and Walgreens reportedly have decided against sponsoring the GOP convention, but have declined to comment publicly about why, Bloomberg reported. The companies all supported the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa, Florida, when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was chosen to lead the party's ticket.
A number of top elected officials and vulnerable candidates — among them Romney, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Sen. Mark Kirk and Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois — also have said they will skip this year's convention in a bid to distance themselves from what could be a bloodbath at the polls come November.
In recent weeks, Trump has angered party members with remarks about the federal judge handling his Trump University lawsuits, renewed calls for banning Muslims from entering the United States and shifting stances on the nation’s gun laws.
The Washington Post reported dozens of Republican convention delegates plan to try to change party rules so someone else can be anointed as the GOP presidential nominee.
“Nobody has any idea who is going to step in and be the nominee, but we’re not worried about that. We’re just doing that job to make sure that he’s not the face of our party,” Kendal Unruh, a Republican delegate from Colorado, told the Post.
After Sunday’s massacre, Trump appeared to be congratulating himself, tweeting that people had been patting him on the back for predicting violence by an apparent Muslim terrorist.
At a rally in Atlanta on Wednesday, Trump said he is the only candidate who can stand up to terrorists inspired by Islamic radicals, and accused presumed Democratic rival Hillary Clinton of being a latecomer to the cause, noting the Clinton Foundation has accepted money from countries with laws that discriminate against the gay community.
“Ask the gays what they think and what they do in not only Saudi Arabia but in many of these countries with the gay community,” Trump said. “Then you tell me, who is your friend — Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?”
His remarks prompted the hashtag #AskTheGays.
Meanwhile, Chris Barron, co-founder of GOProud, told the Hill he thinks Trump’s defense of gays against terrorism will win him votes.
“He’s the only candidate who recognizes that this was not a hate crime — it was an act of war against LGBT Americans by people who want to see us exterminated,” Barron said. “President Obama and Hillary Clinton are trivializing this when they call it a hate crime or make it about guns. That’s an insult.”