Unconventional #35: The senator who could sink Trump, Pence’s VP tryout, Clinton-Sanders awkwardness, and the most anti-immigration platform ever

Unconventional is Yahoo News’ complete guide to what could be the craziest presidential conventions in decades. Here’s what you need to know today.

CLEVELAND — And so it begins. Unconventional arrived here this morning after a series of delays and a redeye out of LAX. We could really use a good iced coffee. (Any local recs? Tweet them to @andrewromano.)

For the rest of the week, and the entirety of next, we’ll be filing from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Capital of World, where the GOP — or the portion of it that’s able to tolerate Donald Trump, at least — will be crowning its 2016 nominee. Then we’ll head directly to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

Instead of our usual Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, we’ll be posting new installments of Unconventional every weekday from now until July 28. In addition to our usual reporting and analysis, each post will feature original, on-the-ground dispatches from the rest of the Yahoo Politics team. Our goal is to be the one thing you need to read to understand what’s really happening at the conventions.

To get the party started, today’s Unconventional will serve as an introduction to four of our crack convention correspondents — Jon Ward, Hunter Walker, Holly Bailey and Liz Goodwin — and the brilliantly “unconventional” reporting they’re already doing in Cleveland and elsewhere.

You’ll be reading a lot more of their work in the days ahead.


1. The tea party senator who could decide Trump’s fate in Cleveland

By Jon Ward

CLEVELAND — This week, watch Mike Lee.

The mild-mannered first-term U.S. senator from Utah will arrive here Wednesday night or Thursday morning to cast a significant vote in the long-odds battle being waged by some Republican delegates to snatch the party’s presidential nomination from Donald Trump.

(Read the full story here.)

Lee, 45, is one of Utah’s two members on the convention Rules Committee, which will vote at the end of the week on a motion to unbind the 2,472 convention delegates next week. If the committee sends the resolution to the convention floor, the whole convention would vote up or down on the measure.

The obstacles facing the dump-Trump effort are high. Multiple Trump campaign officials said Tuesday their whip count indicated that the “conscience clause” would not get out of Rules, and that if it did, it would lose on the convention floor. There were no signs of nervousness in the Trump whip operation, one said.

Allies of the dump-Trump effort are more optimistic that the Rules Committee might pass the measure to the full convention, but less hopeful about their chances there. In addition, other observers of the process think that delegates trying to send the convention to multiple ballots by having a few hundred delegates abstain from voting on the first ballot is the better strategy.

Nonetheless, if the Rules Committee does keep the issue alive by sending the conscience clause to the floor of the convention, it could take on life in a way that’s hard to predict.

And Lee is at the heart of this battle. His support for or against the conscience clause proposal will send a powerful signal to those among the other 111 members of the Rules Committee who are wavering. Lee’s wife, Sharon — who, like her husband, was chosen by the other Utah delegates to represent them on the committee — is believed likely to follow his lead, so his decision could swing two votes of the 28 required to bring the motion to the floor. One member of the Rules Committee said many members believe that Lee’s support could be crucial.

A spokesman for Lee said Tuesday that the senator has made up his mind how he will vote and will share his decision with other members of the committee this week.

“Everyone’s lobbying him,” said a senior Trump campaign official.

So far, Lee has been tightlipped about his intentions. There are plenty of reasons, however, why he would vote against Trump on this issue.

Lee has publicly stated his very deep reservations about Trump. Very recently, Lee said in an interview with NewsMaxTV that Trump had made “religiously intolerant” statements, referring to Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country. Lee noted that Trump is “wildly unpopular” in Utah, which is home to millions of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a “religious minority … who were ordered exterminated by the governor of Missouri in 1838.”

“I’d like some assurances that he’s going to be a vigorous defender for the U.S. Constitution,” Lee said.

And in May, Lee said of Trump: “He scares me to death.”

And Lee is a close ally of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who fought a bitter battle with Trump in the Republican primary. Trump mocked Cruz’s wife in one of his infamous retweets and alleged — based on a story in the National Enquirer with no apparent basis in fact — that Cruz’s father was connected to Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

Lee was enraged by Trump’s accusation about Cruz’s father. “He said that. He actually said that. He said that without any scintilla, without a scintilla of evidence,” Lee told NewsMax.


2. Sanders endorses Clinton — but divisions linger

By Hunter Walker

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Hillary Clinton stood arm in arm with her former Democratic presidential primary opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, at Portsmouth High School on Tuesday as she accepted his endorsement. But offstage, there were clear signs of lingering divisions after their contentious campaign.

New Hampshire was a stronghold for Sanders and gave him his first primary win in February. The crowd that packed into the tiny high school gym to see him and Clinton come together included many staunch Sanders supporters, and there were isolated boos throughout the event. At one point, an audience member began shouting and waving a sign reading “NOPE.” Another man wearing a Sanders T-shirt stood high in the bleachers with his back to the stage throughout the speeches. As the campaign teams arrived, longtime Sanders adviser Michael Briggs noted that the venue was much more intimate than the arenas Sanders regularly packed for his rallies.

“It’s a smaller crowd than usual for us,” Briggs quipped.

(Read the full story here.)

Both Clinton and Sanders stressed their desire to see presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump defeated. They argued that this could only be accomplished by unifying behind Clinton. But some people in the crowd clearly weren’t buying the unity message.

“Never Trump! Never Hillary!” one person shouted.

Several Sanders supporters in attendance said they were not swayed by his endorsement and planned to vote for third-party candidates. Helena Jensen, who was brandishing a T-shirt with Sanders’ silhouette blended with the Grateful Dead logo, walked out after getting into multiple arguments with Clinton supporters.

“I guess I should just move to Canada!” she yelled back at her antagonists as she left.

Jensen told Yahoo News she planned to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein or Libertarian Gary Johnson.

“I’m very disgusted by today,” she said.

“She is a liar. She has manipulated the entirety of the… Democratic National Committee,” Jensen said of the primary process. “There were so many shenanigans with the election.”

She further accused Clinton supporters of being inconsiderate.

“The entirety of everything associated with the Hillary campaign is rude. Don’t let anyone tell you differently,” she said.

After the event, some Sanders and Clinton supporters also bickered outside. Jordan Thompson, a 17-year-old who was a full-time volunteer and intern with the Clinton campaign ahead of the primary, was trying to offer Sanders supporters hugs. But the experience turned, as he put it, “rough.” Borrowing a Clinton campaign slogan, Thompson said he wanted to show the Sanders supporters they are “stronger together,” but he ended up getting in a tense argument with a woman who was wearing a Sanders hat and holding a sign that said “Clinton for Prison 2016.” The woman said she would vote for Trump over Clinton.

“She is not a progressive! She is not a progressive! I am a progressive!” the woman yelled.

“You’re a progressive, and you’re saying you’re going to vote for Trump? That’s not progressive,” Thompson shot back. “You sound very privileged and you sound — your whiteness is speaking. African-Americans, Latinos, the LGBT community, we cannot risk a Trump presidency. You may be able to sit through four years of a Trump presidency, but we cannot. Muslims cannot sit through a Trump presidency. We need Hillary. She is the only qualified candidate.”

The woman said she didn’t think Trump would last four years if he was elected, and said she would rather “cut off” her arm than vote for Clinton.

“I’m not together with Hillary ever. … I will never vote for Hillary ever, ever, vote for Hillary, never,” the woman said, as she turned on her heels and left.

While Sanders declared that Clinton “has won the Democratic nomination” and congratulated her, he did not formally announce the suspension of his campaign in the speech. Sanders has previously said he would remain in the race until the Democratic convention later this month, in order to influence the party’s platform, which will be formally ratified there. The Sanders campaign did not respond to requests for comment from Yahoo News asking whether he intends to suspend his campaign. A spokesman for the Secret Service, which provides Sanders protection as long as he technically continues his presidential bid, said the agency could not comment on the status of his campaign.

After his event with Clinton, Sanders sent an email to his supporters in which he said he will announce “the creation of successor organizations to carry on the struggle that we have been a part of these past 15 months.” However, in the meantime, he said there is still “a tremendous amount of work left to do in the Democratic Rules Committee that will be meeting in the coming weeks.”

Yahoo News emailed Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign’s communications director, to ask if the campaign has concerns about Sanders not officially ending his run.

“No comment,” Palmieri wrote.


3. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence tries out for Trump

By Holly Bailey

WESTFIELD, Ind. — Donald Trump held the latest audition in his quest to find a vice presidential running mate, appearing at a campaign rally here Tuesday night with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who is said to be on the presumptive Republican nominee’s shortlist for the job.

Pence, a former Republican congressman who has a reputation for being a mild-mannered but staunch conservative, introduced Trump with a fiery speech, praising him as a “fighter, a builder and a patriot” who will bring “no-nonsense” leadership to the White House.

(Read the full story here.)

“Donald Trump understands the frustrations and the hopes of the American people, like no other American leader in my lifetime since Ronald Reagan,” Pence declared, adding that Trump “hears the voice of the American people.”

“He has been successful on Wall Street, but he’s never turned his back on Main Street,” Pence continued, reading from notes. “He has never forgotten or forsaken the people who work with their hands, who grow the food, build our roads and bridges, tend to our sick, teach our kids and protect our lives and our property.”

Pence called on the few thousand people at the rally “to come together and elect this good man.”

It was the first time Trump had shared a stage with Pence, who briefly considered his own run for the GOP nomination before ultimately endorsing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz late in the primary.

Trump, who met privately with the Indiana governor before the event, hinted at the intrigue surrounding Pence’s future. “I don’t know if he’s going to be your governor or vice president,” Trump declared at one point. “Who the hell knows?”

Trump’s decision on his VP is said to be imminent, and the joint appearance with Pence comes just days before the kickoff of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland — where, barring any party drama, Trump is set to formally accept his party’s presidential nomination.

Pence was the fourth prospective VP who has campaigned with Trump in recent days. Last week, the New York real estate mogul appeared with Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker — who subsequently took himself out of the running for the job. That appearance was followed by a joint rally with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Cincinnati, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie introduced Trump at a policy speech Monday in Virginia Beach.

For his part, Trump has sent mixed signals about how close he is to settling on a running mate and how many people might be on that list. After teasing the idea that he would announce his pick during the convention for maximum drama, Trump is now expected to announce his decision by this Friday.

At the same time, Trump had previously said he was considering four people. In recent days, he’s expanded the list to include five. And in an interview with the New York Times Tuesday, he said that in addition to those original five, he was considering “two, two that are unknown to anybody.” The Trump campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Adding to the mystery are mixed signals from those on Trump’s shortlist. On Tuesday, Fox News announced it was temporarily parting ways with Gingrich, a longtime contributor to the network, as Trump considers whether to add him to the GOP ticket. Meanwhile, Christie’s office announced that the governor would be traveling out of state Wednesday — though aides declined to say where.

Pence, who is currently facing a tough battle for re-election, seems to be enthusiastically positioning himself for the job. After he left the stage, Pence’s Twitter account suddenly erupted with activity praising Trump as the party’s presumptive nominee.

“Let us resolve here and now that from this day forward, we will stand together. We will unite,” Pence tweeted. “We will not rest until we elect (Trump) as the next president of the United States of America.”


4. The GOP just passed the most anti-immigration platform ever

By Liz Goodwin

CLEVELAND — Republican delegates voted for a platform that calls for less legal immigration, “special scrutiny” for immigrants from certain countries and a wall along the entire Southern border — a far tougher stance than the party has taken in years past.

The platform, adopted by the Republican National Committee’s Platform Committee Tuesday, also calls for rescinding President Obama’s executive action protecting around a million young people from deportation, calling it a “direct violation of federal law.”

(Read the full story here.)

The tough immigration stance is one of the few ways the Republican platform has changed to match the views of its nominee, Donald Trump, who is running on an “America First” platform that at one point included excluding Muslims from immigrating to the country.

Kris Kobach, a Platform Committee delegate and the secretary of state of Kansas, said he believes that the immigration portion of the platform reflects Trump’s views. Kobach, an anti-illegal-immigration activist, advised Mitt Romney on immigration in 2012 and is an informal adviser to Trump.

The Republican platform calls for a wall to “cover the entirety of the southern border” with Mexico to stop unauthorized crossings, a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign. But Kobach stopped short of inserting language asking Mexico to pay for the wall — which Trump has vowed to do — saying that was too specific to include.

Kobach also successfully added an amendment to ask for “special scrutiny” of immigrants entering the United States from “terror-sponsoring countries or from regions associated with Islamic terrorism.” The platform also says that current unemployment and underemployment in the country make it “indefensible” to “continue offering lawful permanent residence to more than one million foreign nationals every year.” That means, in effect, the Republican Party is asking for fewer green cards to be given to legal immigrants.

“The interests of American workers must be protected over the claims of foreign nationals seeking the same jobs,” the platform reads.

Meanwhile, Democrats are drafting one of the most pro-immigration platforms the party has seen, calling for a path to citizenship and access to health exchanges for people who immigrated to the U.S. illegally.

Republicans and Democrats weren’t always so far apart. In 1996, the Democratic platform urged a policy of cracking down on “criminal immigrants” and complained that the border was under-patrolled. “We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it,” the platform read. In 2000, the Republican Party asked for “a total overhaul of the immigration system” to “meet the manpower needs of our expanding economy.” In 2004, its platform supported a guest worker program proposed by then-nominee George W. Bush.


5. The best of the rest



For the latest data, make sure to check the Yahoo News delegate scorecard and primary calendar.