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Unity is GOP Trump card
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Unity is GOP Trump card

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OMAHA -- Donald Trump loomed as the elephant in the room Saturday as Nebraska Republicans met to chart their course for the 2016 general election.

Sen. Deb Fischer told 400 delegates and alternates to the GOP state convention that "the people have spoken" and they are fed up with "the wise men of Washington telling them who to vote for."

"I am committed to supporting the Republican ticket from the top to the bottom," Fischer declared. "We cannot elect a President Hillary Clinton. The only way Clinton can win is if we Republicans let her win."

Her pointed remarks were delivered directly before Sen. Ben Sasse, who has refused to endorse Trump even when he becomes the Republican presidential nominee in July, took the podium.

Sasse told the delegates that there are "some disagreements that we acknowledge exist," but it's better to center on the wide range of Republican agreement than to "dwell on political tactical issues."

Both senators received enthusiastic receptions.

Neither senator spoke Trump's name during what had the feel of an awkward exchange and reflected a gathering that concentrated on the need for Republican unity rather than a celebration of their presidential nominee.

Later, delegates rejected a proposed resolution condemning degrading remarks toward women and members of minorities made by Republican candidates and officials in an obvious effort to shield Trump from criticism.

And the convention adopted a resolution opposing any effort by a GOP officeholder or party official to encourage a third-party candidate. Sasse had earlier done just that.

Gov. Pete Ricketts was not reluctant to endorse Trump by name, suggesting that "it is important to get behind our nominee and bring the party back together again" because the alternative is Clinton.

Ricketts said it also is important to "elect platform Republicans" to the non-partisan Legislature.

In a remarkable roll call of senators who are Republicans, the governor called out by name more than a dozen who did not support him or the party on some key legislative issues.

Among resolutions adopted by the convention were a call to suspend additional relocation of refugees in the United States except for those fleeing religious persecution and a proposal encouraging the Legislature to restrict use of public restrooms based on biological gender.

Earlier, Republican National Committeeman J.L. Spray of Lincoln urged the party to unify in support of the party's presidential nominee.

Lack of enthusiasm or support for Trump is "a dangerous game that could have devastating consequences for Don Bacon," warned Chip Maxwell of Omaha, who was defeated by Bacon for the 2nd District congressional nomination.

People who are unenthusiastic about the presidential nominee may not vote at all, Maxwell said, and it is important that Bacon defeats Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford in November.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry urged Republicans to "resist a false unity," and develop "an authentic unity" that centers on principles like decentralized government, job security and "foreign policy realism."

Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association, told the convention that the presidential election is critical this year because it will "shape the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation."

Even Martinez came with some unspoken concerns about Trump.

Last month, she reportedly criticized Trump for his remarks about immigrants during a private fund-raising event in Florida.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7225 or kabourezk@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJS_Abourezk.

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Republican Presidential primary

Republican presidential primary Votes Delegates
Ben Carson 9,508
Ted Cruz 34,939
John Kasich 21,652
Marco Rubio 6,843
Donald Trump 115,375
1385/1480 precincts

Democratic Presidential primary

Democratic presidential primary Votes Delegates
Hillary Clinton 40,164
Bernie Sanders 35,084
*Delegates awarded in March caucus 1385/1480 precincts

Libertarian Presidential primary

Libertarian presidential primary Votes Delegates
Marc Feldman 46
Gary Johnson 360
Steve Kerbel 34
John McAfee 119
Austin Petersen 128
1385/1480 precincts
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