UPDATE: After Trump wins straw poll in N.D., Cramer says it's time to help him 'be a successful candidate'
Donald Trump has won a straw poll gauging North Dakotans' preference for Republican presidential candidates, winning more than 37 percent of the 4,740 votes submitted.
Donald Trump has won a straw poll gauging North Dakotans’ preference for Republican presidential candidates, winning more than 37 percent of the 4,740 votes submitted.
Organized by U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., the poll doesn’t have any binding results and was only instituted in the wake of state Republican leaders’ announcements that traditional caucusing wouldn’t happen this year.
However, Cramer has previously discussed endorsing a candidate before the Republican National Convention and said the results of the poll would strongly influence his choice, should he do so. He also has expressed hope the poll is instructive for North Dakota party delegates when it comes time to select a national candidate later this year.
“It is clear to me the Trump candidacy is a movement, and I don't share the panic of many in my party's leadership,” Cramer said in a statement announcing the poll results on Wednesday. “Elections are about voters more than they are about political parties. It is time for Republican leaders to help Donald Trump be a successful candidate and then help him be a successful president."
Trump beat all other candidates by at least 12 points:
Trump - 1,785
Ted Cruz - 1,220
Marco Rubio - 818
Ben Carson - 551
John Kasich - 153
Rand Paul - 91
Jeb Bush - 45
Carly Fiorina - 29
Chris Christie - 22
Mike Huckabee - 15
Rick Santorum - 11
Cramer told the Herald he wasn’t officially endorsing Trump just yet. Not only has the Trump campaign not asked him to do so, but he noted the Republican field still has three other candidates -- Cruz, Rubio and Kasich.
Cramer said that whatever happens, he does plan to support the Republican nominee -- whoever that person may be.
“I happen to believe Donald Trump is winning the nomination, by which I think he’s in the process of becoming the nominee,” he said.
Cramer’s poll was instituted in the wake of state party leaders’ decision to scrap North Dakota’s traditional straw poll, which has been a nonbinding indicator of local Republicans’ wishes ahead of the national convention in prior elections.
However, new national rules for Republicans require that all state caucuses be binding for the state’s delegates -- not just advisory -- and North Dakota Republicans realized last summer that they didn’t have the time to draft new rules before an Oct. 1 deadline, so they canceled the event.
Enter Cramer’s poll, which was held online at www.northdakotastrawpoll.com . While Cramer said the poll wasn’t perfect, it required voters to enter their name, e-mail address and zip code, asked that only voters who intended to vote Republican this November participate and eliminated multiple votes from the same IP address. He told the Herald these measures helped make the polls more representative of local Republicans.
"My initial intent was to close polling on Super Tuesday, but the dynamism of the race led me to extend the voting another week," Cramer’s statement said. "I had hoped to attract 1,000 participants but am not surprised many more people cast votes. It speaks to the excitement and opportunity for growing Republican activism in this cycle."
Road to November Trump’s campaign has been roundly criticized on several fronts, most recently when Trump appeared to hesitate to condemn the support of David Duke, a former leader of the KKK, and has also drawn criticism for his stringent vision for immigration.
Cramer said he doesn’t agree with Trump on everything -- just the same as would happen with any number of candidates, he said.
“If a North Dakota Democratic leader endorsed Hillary Clinton, does that mean they endorse banning oil and gas development on all federal lands?” he asked.
And though Cramer said some of Trump’s ideas lack fine detail, he said he believes many Republican politicians have more than enough experience to help craft policy.
“I think Donald Trump is a smart enough leader to look for that help and put that together,” Cramer said. “I think he’s demonstrated that he likes to surround himself with good people.”
Officials with the North Dakota Republican Party did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the poll on Wednesday.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who has so far declined to endorse a candidate, is not expected to do so prior to the convention, his spokesman said last week.
“Based on what we’ve seen nationally, I’m not surprised by the results of Kevin’s straw poll,” Hoeven said in a statement issued to the Herald Wednesday. “Republicans will continue to make their voices heard in this election cycle, and I intend to respect the will of the people and support the party’s nominee.”