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Make The GOP One Again? Mass. Delegates Divided Ahead Of Trump's Big Night03:23
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Attendees shout as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz delivers his speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Wednesday. He was booed once it became clear that he wasn't not going to endorse Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
Attendees shout as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz delivers his speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Wednesday. He was booed once it became clear that he wasn't not going to endorse Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
This article is more than 5 years old.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Massachusetts delegation is going into the final night of the Republican National Convention divided.

They have different interpretations of Ted Cruz's refusal to endorse Donald Trump on Wednesday night — and different expectations for what they want to hear from Donald Trump.

The last day of the convention is usually the candidate's chance to win over voters who have yet to make up their minds. By this time, the party is usually solidly behind its candidate. That is not the case here in Cleveland.

A Divided Party

On Wednesday night, the divisions within the GOP were laid bare once again when Trump supporters booed Cruz. But that doesn't worry Richard Howell, of Wilbraham, who is attending his third convention. Howell is a Cruz supporter, but after the primaries he decided he'd vote for Trump in the fall. He thinks this convention is very different from the previous ones.

"This turmoil isn't necessarily bad. It's actually good. If we need to shake it out, you're going to need to feel pain in order to get the gain — not to sound to cliché," Howell said.

But he acknowledges that Republicans are divided.

Alaska delegate Nick Stepovich walks around the floor of the Republican National Convention with signs on Wednesday. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Alaska delegate Nick Stepovich walks around the floor of the Republican National Convention with signs on Wednesday. (Matt Rourke/AP)

"People are [at a] fever pitch down here, both sides. One little thing, people will react, and that's what started to happen," Howell said. "And I think as soon as those Trump delegates booed Cruz, big mistake."

A mistake because it continued to expose the division in the party. But Howell believes the GOP can knit itself back together by November.

"A lot of this, yes, it's concerning, but I am not alarmed about it. I am not distraught about it. We do what we need to do," Howell said. "The main part is we defeat the Democrat socialists in November."

'The Republican Party As We Know It Is Dead'

Ion Baleanu, of Middleborough, is another Mass. delegate and Cruz supporter — but he holds a more pessimistic outlook.

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"The Republican Party as we know it is dead," Baleanu said as he sat next to Howell in a hotel lobby. "It may live for a little bit longer, but millions of the base are leaving. They're leaving because they thought this was going to be the time when they listened to them."

Baleanu will not support Trump. He's leaving the GOP, and he said he's not sure he'll even show up to hear Trump speak Thursday night.

For one member of the Massachusetts delegation, this convention is already over. Peter Fariel, a Marco Rubio supporter, started the long drive home to Rockport on Wednesday. He stopped to talk to us from Hartford, Conn., about why he left Trump's convention early.

"He is not a nominee that I support, and at this point I am looking to the efforts that are underway to have an independent conservative run," Fariel said.

Fariel predicts the party can recover if Trump loses. If Trump wins, he's concerned Republicans face a challenging and divisive four years.

But Trump has drawn legions into the party.

Among them is delegate Dianna Ploss. She's new to politics, and she's worried that the divisions of the convention will hurt Trump.

"Like Belichick, right? I always go back to Bill Belichick. All those teammates, they can't possibly all like one another, right? They have issues with one another. But they play as a team and that's why they win, right? And the Republicans aren't playing as team," she said.

On Thursday night, Trump has a chance to persuade the team that they must play as one.

This program aired on July 21, 2016.

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Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.

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