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Anti-Trump Climate Hovers Over Texas Republican Convention

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Texas is a deeply Republican state, but Texas Republicans may not be enthusiastic about Donald Trump as their nominee for president. And as Ashley Lopez from member station KUT reports, that could be a problem for the party this fall.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Almost two weeks after Texas Senator Ted Cruz dropped out of the presidential race, his home state is still Cruz country - at least for now. Many of the delegates at the state Republican convention that's currently underway are still wrapping their heads around the fact that their guy isn't going to be the nominee. And state leaders here, like Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, know that.

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DAN PATRICK: I know the time of healing for some will come faster than others. But folks, we must unite. We must come together.

LOPEZ: But that message is a really hard sell for some people here. Take Vicky Enrigue, a delegate from Mason, Texas. She was a die-hard Cruz supporter during the primary. And she still can't get behind Trump.

VICKY ENRIQUE: I don't care how much money he's got. I don't care how handsome he thinks he is and how much he thinks that the people of the United States love him. I don't love him. I don't think he's handsome. And the amount of money he's got in the bank doesn't help me one bit.

LOPEZ: The crowd is a lot thinner this year, says Art Martinez de Vara. He's an assistant parliamentarian with the Texas GOP. And he's been to plenty of these party conventions. De Vara worries that many Republicans here may just not vote this fall.

ART VARA: At the Republican state convention, people are die-hard politicos. So I hear a lot of people soured by the presidential race, but they typically understand the importance of going to the ballot. But how far down in the party that goes is what concerns people.

LOPEZ: De Vara says usually by the time the convention rolls around, delegates have already united around the GOP nominee but not this year. And party activists like Artemio Muniz are worried about alienating voters they've been trying to make inroads with, specifically Hispanic voters.

ARTEMIO MUNIZ: As of right now, the way things are, he's not going to win the Hispanic vote. He's not going to move the needle. But he still has a chance to repair the damage that he's done.

LOPEZ: And for Muniz, this is a big disappointment. Just two years ago, Republicans were able to win the Hispanic vote in a couple of statewide elections. Muniz, who's worked with the party on Hispanic outreach, says Trump's stance on immigration might keep him from voting for the Republican nominee too.

MUNIZ: If Trump maintains his current status quo, I'm not signing up for Trump. I'll write in somebody or keep it blank for president.

LOPEZ: Of course, not everyone feels this way. Paul Gebolys, a delegate from the Woodlands, says he's supporting Trump because he won.

PAUL GEBOLYS: I really wished it had been Ted, but this is what I have. So, you know, if you go to the candy store or the ice cream store and they offer you chocolate and vanilla and you say no, all I want is pistachio, you may get nothing.

LOPEZ: Nothing for Gebolys would mean Hillary Clinton. Defeating her is one of the unifying goals Texas Republicans share. In fact, the Wi-Fi password during the past few days was Never Hillary. And with transgender rights in the news, Republican leaders are also hoping social issues will bring the party's base together. For NPR News, I'm Ashley Lopez in Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.