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Florida Primary watch party illustrates what’s wrong with the GOP

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Was it a party or a wake?

The Pinellas County Republican Party Executive Committee held its Primary Watch Party Tuesday evening in Pinellas Park.

Held at the Big Storm Brewing Company, a brand-new craft brewery and tap house, the event drew about 50 (or so) Party members, who gathered for Presidential Primary results. Nick DiCeglie, President of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee, hosted the event.

The event was like none I could remember. Very low key. The crowd was mostly in place by 7 p.m., as polls began to close.

Noticeably missing from the party were any significant Republican officeholders or candidates. There were no signs, no handouts, nor any supporters of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich or – surprisingly – Donald Trump.

As results came in, there was no shouting, no applause. Nothing.

Just people staring at the screens.

Shortly after 7 p.m., as CNN and most other news outlets called the Florida Primary a landslide for Trump, the mood turned even more somber. By 7:45 p.m., people began filing out; Rubio’s withdrawal speech barely elicited any emotion.

From my perspective, the event characterized the Republican Party’s current predicament. Change has always been a problem for Republicans, but the kind of change Trump is bringing about is something they just cannot fathom.

Many people believe the problem with the Republican Party is mainly at the national level, and the real issue is with the current national Republican leadership. But that’s not quite the case.

The core issue trickles all the way down to Pinellas Park and even the Tap House on 49th Street. The old follow-the-leader Party rulebook is being torn to shreds.

Republican leadership at all levels – from counties to the top – are comfortable with how money and influence flow. And at every level, those in charge want to stay in charge.

Yet, Trump attracts waves of new voters to the GOP, voters who clamor for a voice. And that scares the hell out of the Republican establishment.

Pundits, political writers and students of political history wonder if the Republican Party can survive. If Tuesday night at the Big Storm Tap House in Pinellas Park was any indication, it’s a very valid question.

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E-mail Gene “Doc” Webb at dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send him a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc’s Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos. Doc is a contributor to Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff.

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