- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2016

CLEVELAND | Amid all the holdouts and lukewarm backers at the convention here, there are a handful of prominent Republicans who bought early tickets on the Trump Train, and they are now collecting their due.

While the party is rallying to Donald Trump now that he’s the nominee, those who were with him back in the winter, when there were still more than a dozen candidates in the race, are getting to bask in the joy of being right. They’ve also gone from being lonely prophets to important gatekeepers for the latecomers.

“Initially they were saying, ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing this?’” said former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, who quickly became one of the top Trump surrogates after endorsing him ahead of the New Hampshire primary. “When I explained it all to them, they’re like ‘OK, well, I get it, good luck, see you in November. My guy’s going to win.’ And when they didn’t win. I said, ‘Your guy didn’t win. Are you gonna come on board? Can you meet with Trump?’”

Mr. Brown has been making the rounds of the convention, while other early Trump adopters have gained prominent roles on the stage. One of them, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, even officially entered Mr. Trump’s name into nomination.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach, who, like Mr. Sessions, is a major figure in the immigration-enforcement movement and was also an early Trump backer, helped push the nominee’s immigration plans — including a border wall — into the party platform.

Mr. Kobach endorsed Mr. Trump just ahead of Super Tuesday, when the candidate was still viewed as a dangerous usurper by many party leaders. But rank-and-file voters were quicker to latch onto Mr. Trump than the GOP bigwigs.

“A lot of people came up to me and said I’m really relieved that you endorsed him,” Mr. Kobach said.

Kansas ended up going for Sen. Ted Cruz in its early March caucuses, giving him 24 delegates to Mr. Trump’s nine. But now, months later, the state’s delegation to the convention is nearly united behind Mr. Trump.

“Some of them have just become more comfortable with Trump over time; they’ve seen him throw some punches at Hillary,” Mr. Kobach said.

Not all of the early Trump backers are at the convention. Perhaps most notable is 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who stumped for Mr. Trump in the winter and spring, but who isn’t here.

Mr. Trump has been a tough sell for many Republicans, who bristle at both his style and some of the positions he takes. That’s true even for those close to some of the early acolytes. Mr. Brown said he’s faced some ups and downs with his own wife and daughters.

“When Donald says stuff the girls and my wife don’t agree with, they say, ‘I’m not voting for him.’ And then he says something they do agree on, [and] they say, ‘I’m voting for him.’ So it’s back and forth, back and forth,” he said.

And as of now?

“They’re back on board,” Mr. Brown said.

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