- Associated Press - Friday, July 22, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson sees Donald Trump as the big winner at the recently completed Republican National Convention, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the biggest loser.

Thompson, a Wisconsin delegate, spoke to The Associated Press on Friday after attending his 11th national convention. He’s been to every one since 1976, but even he was surprised by Cruz’ failure to endorse Trump as the nominee.

“I’ve never seen anyone commit political suicide at a convention like Sen. Cruz did,” Thompson said. “He fell absolutely flat on his face. He will be considered the goat of the convention.”

Cruz rankled Republicans, and was heartily booed, after urging delegates to “vote your conscience” rather than explicitly calling for them to support Trump. Cruz came in second to Trump after a bitter campaign that devolved into personal attacks and name calling.

Despite that dramatic moment, Thompson said he saw the convention as a success for Republicans that “absolutely” unified the party and prepares them for the campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Thompson, who was elected governor four times in Wisconsin and briefly ran for president in 2008, said Trump can be the first Republican since Ronald Reagan to win the state, but he needs to get to work.

“I think Wisconsin is going to be one of his toughest states because it’s a Democrat state in a presidential year,” Thompson said. “You’re going in with the fact there are more Democrats who vote in a presidential election than the Republican Party. You go in with the odds against you.”

Most scenarios show that in order for Trump to win, he must carry Wisconsin. No Republican has done that since Reagan in 1984, but George H.W. Bush in 1988 and his son, George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, were able to win the presidency without Wisconsin.

Thompson predicted there will never be another convention as dominated by Wisconsin as this one.

Wisconsin Republicans with prominent roles included: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus; House Speaker Paul Ryan; Gov. Scott Walker; U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy; and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.

While the convention and Trump’s acceptance speech have been criticized for attacks on Clinton and focusing on people’s fears over their safety and home and abroad, Thompson said those are the subjects that voters want answers to.

“It’s only Republicans that are going to make America safe again and secure,” he said.

Other Republican delegates interviewed Friday also declared the convention and Trump’s speech a success.

“According to my personal Facebook account, friends were definitely won over so I would assume that to be true of the American people in general,” said delegate Ginny Marschman in an email.

“Personally, I arrived at this convention faced with the reality that Donald Trump will be our nominee, kind of like ‘grin and bear’ it and do my best to help get him elected,” said Marschman, the state party’s social conservative coalition chair. “I never expected to leave this convention 100 percent in support of the Trump/Pence ticket!”

The Democratic National Convention begins Monday in Philadelphia. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore are both expected to speak at the four-day event.

“The Republican National Convention showed exactly why we must elect Hillary Clinton to the White House and other Democrats up and down the ticket into office,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Martha Laning in a statement. “If elected, Donald Trump would severely damage our economy, diminish our standing in the world, and make our communities less safe. He is divisive, dangerous, and lacks the judgment and temperament to be commander in chief.”

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer

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