Within hours of Donald Trump effectively clinching the Republican Party’s presidential nomination with a win in Indiana, GOP leaders in Mississippi announced that they are switching their support from other candidates to Trump.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, seen as the last major challenger to Trump, suspended his campaign Tuesday night after the Indiana results came in. Reports said Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Trump’s final GOP challenger, followed suit Wednesday evening.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who had previously supported Cruz, said in a release he will back Trump moving forward.
“I will support Donald Trump to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president of these United States,” Bryant said in a statement issued Tuesday night. “As a conservative, I will find common cause in this election because the possibility of a Clinton victory is unacceptable.”
Trump, the outspoken New York business mogul, garnered 47.3 percent of votes and 25 delegates in the Mississippi primary in March. Cruz racked in 36.3 percent of the vote and 15 delegates in the primary.
Mississippi GOP Chairman Joe Nosef released a statement saying “it is now time to focus on the general election. We all need to get behind Donald Trump who will be our nominee and work hard to make him the next President of the United States.”
Before the Indiana results, speculation about a contested Republican convention swirled as Trump’s momentum mounted during state primaries and some party leaders, including in Mississippi, worked to find an alternative to his grass roots campaign.
“Thankfully, we have avoided potentially divisive state and national conventions that could have made unity and victory in November nearly impossible,” Nosef’s statement read. “Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton still faces a tough challenge from the socialist wing of her own party.”
By Wednesday morning, Republican leaders in the state and country said it was time to unite and support Trump to ensure the presidency was won by a Republican in November.
“The time to unite is now,” U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo said Wednesday morning on the JT Show on Supertalk radio. “No one wants a contested convention. Even planning for one is kind of sleazy. It would do nothing to unite the party.”
U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, who represents Mississippi’s third congressional district, said, “I will support the nominee of the Republican Party, knowing that America cannot endure a Hillary Clinton administration after suffering through eight years of a failed Obama administration.”
U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly could not immediately be reached. U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran has supported Jeb Bush before the Florida governor suspended his campaign earlier this year, and it is unclear whether Cochran will support Trump.
“In a year-and-a-half, I’ve not answered any questions about the presidential race. Trying to think of why I should start today,” Sen. Roger Wicker told Politico in April. “I’m going to decline.”
Other state leaders withheld any announcement. For example, neither Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves nor House Speaker Philip Gunn responded to requests for comment.
Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, who made introduced the guns in churches bill and actively defended House Bill 1523, announced on social media he was switching his support from Cruz to Trump.
“I think Donald Trump is better than Romney and McCain,” Palazzo said Wednesday. “We held our nose and voted for those two previously. If Trump does half the things he says he’s going to do, he’s going to be a successful president.”