CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Well, here's something that's probably going to come up at the next meeting between top Republican officials and Donald Trump, their presumptive nominee.
During a joyful, victorious rally speech in West Virginia on Thursday night, Trump told his crowd of 13,000 that they no longer had to vote in Tuesday's Republican primary — even though there are still a number of contested local races on the ballot. This came after Trump repeatedly told the crowd that he debated on whether to show up, as he no longer needed their votes in the primary. He said "just didn't have the heart" to stand them up.
"What I want you to do is save your vote — you know, you don't have to vote anymore. Save your vote for the general election, okay? Forget this one. The primary is gone," Trump said. "Save your vote for the general election in November, and we're going to show you something, and then you're going to show me something, okay?"
Just in case voters didn't get the message the first time, Trump touched on it again in the final minutes of his remarks: "In November, you're going to go out, and you're going to vote and that's going to be the greatest vote you ever cast, okay? The vote was supposed to be on Tuesday, but now I can say: Stay home but get twice as many people in November, right? Because we have to win, we have to win the general election. We cannot take Hillary Clinton anymore. We've had enough of Clinton."
Trump has been trying to make peace with leaders of the Republican Party now that he's expected to be their nominee. Although he won't admit it, Trump needs the party's organizational help and its fundraising firepower if he wants to beat Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who has built a massive and well-funded operation. Many party leaders are starting to put their support behind their likely nominee, although sometimes grudgingly. Others — namely House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) — are waiting or staying quiet. And Trump likely didn't help his case for peace by telling Republican voters not to vote.
Late Thursday night, Trump appeared to correct himself in a tweet: "Thank you West Virginia. Let's keep it going. Go out and vote on Tuesday — we will win big. #Trump2016."
West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas confirmed that the party still wants voters to show up on Tuesday.
"We're hoping for a very large Republican turnout on Tuesday," Lucas said in an email late Thursday night. "High Republican turnout is essential for our judicial races and to send a message where West Virginia stands. Like Mr. Trump tweeted — go vote on Tuesday."