CLEVELAND — Two of the most visible leaders of the New York Republican Party who have clashed for years formed an odd couple Sunday at the Republican National Convention as New York Republicans tried to coalesce around presumptive nominee Donald Trump.
“He is addressing a much broader audience,” said state Republican Chairman Ed Cox on Sunday. “They are going to ask, ‘How is he going to handle this?’ I’m convinced he’s going to handle this well.”
Cox went on to gush about Trump as a firebrand who will keep Democrat Hillary Clinton from the White House, the goal around which Republicans hope to unify. The mood in Cleveland on Sunday was far from the tensions leading up to the New York primary in April, when Cox and other top New York Republicans refused to endorse Trump before the primary.
“He doesn’t know how to win,” Trump snapped at Cox then.
Back then, Trump’s point man in New York, former GOP nominee for governor Carl Paladino, labeled those New York Republican party leaders, congressional members and state legislators who wouldn’t endorse Trump as cowards. Paladino sent a seething email to them before the primary saying: “This is our last request that you join ‘Trump for President’ and try to preserve what’s left of your pathetic careers in government.”
But even Paladino said Sunday that he’s working well with Cox, and that the state Republican Party that Paladino has for years accused of being RINOS — “Republicans in Name Only — is uniting behind Trump.
“We’re getting along,” Paladino said of Cox. That’s high praise from Paladino, who doesn’t let those he feels have crossed him in the past off the hook easily — if at all.
Paladino said he’s convinced the New York Republican finally realizes Trump is more than a candidate.
“Donald Trump took this from being about an election to a second American revolution,” Paladino said in an interview. “We are looking at something we are going to be talking about for generations. This is an upheaval by the middle class.”
Rep. Pete King said the party has drawn closer to Trump faster than he thought it would, but unifying Republicans remains the essential goal this week at the convention. Trump will have to continue to work with the party and appear more presidential, rather than act the rabble-rouser he has been during the primaries.
“It really is up to Trump,” King said.