Joe Gruters‘ association with the Donald Trump campaign is controversial, because, well, Donald Trump is controversial.
Gruters became campaign chairman for Trump in Florida last fall. His other public duties include being vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Executive Committee, and a member of Florida State University’s board of trustees.
Those conflicting roles have led critics to say that he should step down from one of those positions. Gruters has rebuffed them, now feeling more confident than ever that his candidate will be the GOP nominee this fall. And he has no doubt the party will come together for November.
“Listen, primaries are tough,” he said, standing outside a room used by Trump at the Tampa Convention Center on Monday. “A lot of things get said in primaries. People are unhappy. Their candidate loses, and just like me, there’ve been times before where I didn’t like who are nominee was going to be. But by the end of the day, I was 100 percent doing everything I could for the person, and I think the same will happen here.”
Members of the GOP establishment continue to contend most Republicans don’t support Trump, pointing to his primary victories that rarely exceeded 40 percent of total votes.
A larger field diluted the vote, and Gruters contends Trump’s numbers have grown since other candidates have dropped out.
“Eventually, all will be forgiven, and the Republican Party will come together, stronger and united and bigger and better than before, and I think we’re going to win,” he said.
On Tuesday, former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford said Trump falls short of his expectations of what the GOP’s standard bearer should be. A former surrogate for Jeb Bush and now a Marco Rubio supporter, Weatherford said Trump lacks those qualities at the moment.
“I expect the nominee of the Republican Party to be presidential,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I expect them to care about the poor. I expect them to care about free markets and free enterprise. I expect them to care about life. This is not a person who has not embodied what I look for in a candidate for the Republican nomination, and somebody I can support in November.”
Gruters said Trump has ignited a movement resulting in a dramatic increase in Republicans voting in some of the first primaries and caucuses. Democratic strategist Steve Schale told The Wall Street Journal that more than half the early voters in 14 counties across Florida didn’t cast ballots in the 2012 GOP presidential primary.
“I think at the end of the day we have to win the general election, and I think that Donald Trump has the ability to expand our base, to increase the size of our tent,” Gruters said.
“You’ve seen it in the primaries; I think that the energy and enthusiasm that’s been created will be transferred over to the general election, and I think it’s going to be a historic election with DT carrying states that we were never even considered to have a chance of winning before.”