A focus group of Republican women in Pittsburgh said Wednesday that they would feel “cheated” and that the system is “corrupt” if Donald Trump won the most delegates in the primaries but did not become the GOP presidential nominee.
The group of nine “Wal-Mart moms” -- women who have at least one child under 18 living at home and have shopped at Wal-Mart in the past month – did not all identify as Trump supporters. But they were nearly unanimous in the belief that, even if Trump does not earn 1,237 delegates, he should still be the nominee if he earns the most votes.
Their answers highlight a troubling reality facing the Republican party if a candidate who does not have the most delegates heading into the GOP convention in Cleveland this summer emerges as the nominee.
“I’m just tired of them not caring what people think,” one attendee said of Republican party leaders. “It’s not a Trump thing.”
And the group agreed they would feel the same way if Ted Cruz or John Kasich were ahead.
Even for these voters, who are largely tuned in to the 2016 race as they prepare to vote next Tuesday, the delegate and primary process has been confusing one. “Misled,” “cheated” and “rigged” were all used to describe how they would feel if the candidate with the most votes does not win the nomination.
“I don't think that's fair, I think that's terrible,” one woman said. “It’s just going to put everyone else up in arms that they don’t trust our system to put forth who we want.”
That’s even the case if the delegate race is razor close between Cruz and Trump, they said.
It’s troubling news for the Ohio governor and Texas senator, who are both mathematically eliminated from securing the nomination ahead of the convention and have justified their continuation in the race by playing up their chances in a contested convention.
“Wall-Mart moms” have become a heavily coveted voting bloc in recent elections. The have supported the winning candidate or party in every election since 2008, except in 2014 when the broke for Democrats in the midterms.
A similar focus group of swing voters was also conducted in suburban Philadelphia on Wednesday. And sentiments about fairness in the GOP primary were largely shared, even among the Democratic voters.
Another similarity between the two focus groups was the general unfamiliarity the women had with Cruz and Kasich. It was especially striking for Kasich, who governors a neighboring state and was born close to Pittsburgh.
One woman in the GOP focus group said she didn’t know much about Cruz “other than he lied,” an often repeated Trump line.
And when asked about Kasich, one woman responded, “We definitely don't know anything about him.”
For voters in both groups, the race has become Clinton v. Trump, despite the continuing primary battle. Not even Bernie Sanders elicited a particularly strong reaction from the swing voters.
And there certainly was no groundswell of support for a Paul Ryan nomination among the GOP voters in Pittsburgh. In fact, they seemed largely unaware that the possibly even existed, no matter how remote.
“Could that even happen?” one woman asked.
“That’s crazy, sorry,” another said.