Congressional Republicans were largely impressed with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s speech Thursday as he formally accepted the nomination and closed the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
“He covered a lot of ground and did it very well,” said Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais, calling it a good general election message.
Arizona Rep. Trent Franks said it was the best he’s ever heard Trump.
“I sincerely believe his speech tonight will appeal to middle America and propel him to the White House,” he said.
In that vein, he checked all the boxes, Florida Rep. John L. Mica said.
“He covered the working class — a lot of emphasis on women and security and children, the safety of their children in our streets,” he said. “Again I think reaching out to the gay community, and he covered all of them right down to the que.”
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, one of Trump’s earliest and strongest supporters, said he was thrilled to hear the business mogul so willing to take on the business and party establishment on issues of immigration and the middle class.
“That was stunning,” he said. “I can’t remember seeing a politician do something like that.”
Texas Rep. Pete Sessions was impressed with Trump’s message of law and order.
“Hit the points that we need to to make our country better but the confidence that he has could transcend itself to the American people,” he said. “We must face the reality that in a competitive world that the rule of law and following the laws of this country can bring us back to where need to be.”
It was a long speech but Trump hit on a lot of good points, Utah Rep. Rob Bishops said. “What I hope is he was able to show that he had some specific ideas and that … people could relate to him as a person,” he said.
“I think he was successful in that.”
One thing that concerned Bishop is that Trump didn’t touch on many policies that impact the western part of the country deals with, like water and land issues. However, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the vice presidential nominee, understands those issues, the House Natural Resources Committee chairman added.
Bishop was not sitting with the Utah delegation during Trump’s speech so he didn’t know how they reacted compared to their cheers during Cruz’s speech last night. But he said that not all of the delegates from Utah are staunch Cruz supporters.
“Let’s face it, we’re officially for Cruz but there were a lot of [Marco] Rubio and other Rubio people that were in that group,” Bishop said, noting he was initially a Rubio supporter.
New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce suggested that Trump ended the convention having accomplished his goal of unifying the party.
“We came out strong last night – Ted misjudged the audience – but that just solidified support today even more,” he said.
Mica agreed that Trump has seemed to grow his following. “We started with 17 and [now] down to one and some are still throwing their toys out at the playpen, but it’s interesting. It just seems to strengthen him.”
Having attended the Republican conventions since the 1960s, Mica said with confidence, “This isn’t a regular republican group here.”
“This is more of a movement [Trump] started and it’s spread unlike anyone could predict,” he added. “And I think he laid the groundwork to go after labor, to go after a whole host of people … I mean he reached out right for Bernie Sanders’ people tonight, and he’ll probably get a lot of em.”
Florida Rep. Ted Yoho, a member of the consersvative House Freedom Caucus, said he likes that Trump is a political outsider. Trump’s speech was “outstanding,” as he was “clear and concise” about what he plans to do if elected, he said.
“I think you’re gonna see pretty much everybody but Ted Cruz endorse — him and John Kasich,” Yoho said. “Which is a shame.”
Some members of Congress, such as South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, are also unlikely to endorse Trump. Sanford said he was leaving Cleveland with the same reservations about Trump he had when he arrived.
“This is gonna be a larger tug of war that was not gonna get resolved in the four days of this convention,” Sanford said. “Frankly it ain’t gonna get resolved between here and November.”
That tug of war has the populist wing pulling the party in one direction and the principled conservatives pulling it in the other, he explained.
Sandford explained his personal dilemma this way: “You know if you’ve spent your life working on debt, deficit and government spending, and you have someone who says we’re not going to touch entitlements, you don’t know how quite how you get there.”
“You come from a place like Charleston where imports and exports are absolutely vital and represent about a third of the American economy and you begin to talk about some of these things that are sort of quasi-protectionist in nature, it gives you pause,” he added.
Bridget Bowman, Alex Roarty, Nathan Gonzales and Eric Garcia contributed to this report.