Capitol Alert

Becoming a Donald Trump loyalist: Doug Ose sheds his ‘statesman’ approach in Cleveland

Doug Ose: 'I'm voting for Trump'

Doug Ose, the former GOP congressman from the Sacramento area, is in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, where he used procedural motions last week to speed Donald Trump's path to the nomination.
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Doug Ose, the former GOP congressman from the Sacramento area, is in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, where he used procedural motions last week to speed Donald Trump's path to the nomination.

When a spirited but brief dissent broke out on the floor of the Republican National Convention this week, Sacramentan Doug Ose was prepared to help thwart a stubborn anti-Donald Trump effort.

A member of the convention’s powerful rules committee, he stood beside party functionaries and invoked procedural motions to deliberately derail Trump’s adversaries.

Ose, a former three-term congressman, called for the bell when an anti-Trump contingent wanted more time to argue its case. And he made motion after motion to permanently end the debate.

They are not happy with the way things are, and they are tired of being told to stay the course. Enough! No more!

Former Rep. Doug Ose, a Sacramento Republican

Jim Brulte, the party chairman in California, credited Ose with outmaneuvering anti-Trump combatants like Morton Blackwell, an expert in arcane rules and a former aide to President Ronald Reagan.

“The master of the parliamentary procedure may have been trumped by former Congressman Ose,” Brulte said, still radiating with pride over his delegation’s contribution.

Ose, known as an establishment moderate during his congressional service, has thrown himself wholeheartedly into the Trump effort in California.

He helped the campaign select delegates, many of them new to the process, who he made pledge their loyalty to Trump “come hell or high water.” He arrived in Cleveland last week for the rules committee work, joining Harmeet Dhillon, vice chair of the California GOP, in quashing attempts to slow their candidate’s nomination.

As the convention rolled out this week with little distraction from delegates pledged to other candidates, Ose was so tethered to his cellphone and tied up in meetings that he missed riding the famous roller coasters at Cedar Point and the opening reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the shore of Lake Erie.

“I had to be here because we had to lay out the (scenarios): ‘OK, if they do this, we have to do that,’” Ose said. “I will never forgive those people for keeping me from riding the roller coasters.”

Ose’s role in process seemed improbable months ago given his early support for Jeb Bush.

“I would have gone over the cliff with him,” Ose said. “It would have been fine by me.”

But his experience walking precincts in Reno helped persuade him the electorate was too frustrated to support any traditional candidate. Ose said nearly everyone he visited gave a variation on the same answer: While they respected the Bush family, and the former Florida governor, they were voting for Trump. They stewed over lost jobs, slashed pensions and tumbling home values.

“They are not happy with the way things are, and they are tired of being told to stay the course,” Ose said. “Enough! No more!”

In February, just days after Bush suspended his White House bid, Ose endorsed Trump, saying he would increase jobs and incomes, secure the border and improve opportunities for future generations. Trump, he argued, “gets things done.”

We leaned on Doug Ose a lot for help.

Tim Clark, Trump’s California political director

Tim Clark, Trump’s California political director, was hired about two months out from the primary and relied on Ose’s Northern California network.

“We leaned on Doug Ose a lot for help,” Clark said.

In his first campaign for Congress in 1998, Ose, a developer of mini-storage facilities and duplexes, touted his business experience: “I’m not a politician, I’m a businessman,” he said at the time.

When he sought to return to Congress in 2008, Republican rival Tom McClintock criticized him as a spendthrift with weak ratings from conservative groups on abortion and gun control.

Six years later, Ose challenged Democratic Rep. Ami Bera for a Sacramento County swing district. In the primary election, Igor Birman, a conservative Republican and longtime McClintock aide, tried to rough up Ose as being the “proud owner” of a liberal voting record. Ose won the primary but was defeated by Bera that fall as he ran on his Washington experience.

Over the years he has shown an eagerness to work with people in power. He seems like a malleable character.

Tom Hudson, president of the California Republican Assembly

Tom Hudson, president of the conservative California Republican Assembly, supported U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. He said he wasn’t surprised to see Ose fully embrace Trump while the outcome of the nomination was still in doubt.

“Over the years he has shown an eagerness to work with people in power,” Hudson said. “He seems like a malleable character.”

Doug Haaland, a veteran Republican official in Sacramento, said Ose vacillated between establishment and anti-establishment before backing Trump, also a developer, though on a considerably grander scale.

“I don’t know if it’s biting the hand that feeds you, or getting to where the mood of the electorate is and getting on the front of the train,” Haaland said. “But to me it’s the epitome of political opportunism.”

Ose’s background may be more philosophically in tune with Trump than Bush, or the others. The former congressman has always had a set of core values rooted in the pragmatic wing of the party, said Doug Elmets, a friend and adviser.

Ose backed Trump because “he wanted to be one of the first people riding that horse,” Elmets said.

“Doug is at his core is interested in the political process, and by supporting Trump, who he believes is a good leader, it helps keep him in the mix.”

There could be rewards for his loyalty. Elmets suggested Ose may be enticed by a potential ambassadorship should Trump win. Still, Elmets – who is voting for Clinton himself – questioned whether Trump’s controversial remarks about Mexicans, Muslims and the disabled would reflect badly on Ose.

Ose said he isn’t concerned about the optics, and he is increasingly shedding the “statesman” approach he took while representing a closely divided district. “What I might have said privately to somebody, then I am going to say publicly, loudly, now,” he said.

“You get to a point where you say, ‘You know what, this is wrong.’ I am 61 years old. I can see the end of the line. I am done being quiet about things that I think are very important.”

In an interview, he pounced on a major source of political giving to parties and candidates, offering the following observation: “If I were on Wall Street, I don’t know why they would give any money to Republicans right now,” he said.

“They are just so fat and happy” under a Democratic administration, he said. “They love the status quo.”

Early on, the lingering threat of revolt kept Ose hunkered down in his hotel near Quicken Loans Arena, though he was able to retire to dinners at Lola and Mabel’s BBQ. (Great food,” he offered. “This is a great town.”)

By Wednesday, Ose relaxed a bit, planning a trip to the rock museum with his wife. Though he never made it the 60 miles to Sandusky, where most of the California delegation is staying, Ose briefly visited with GOP Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Darrell Issa and connected with former Ohio Rep. Dave Hobson, who was one of his mentors in Congress.

Ose put the chances of him running again at ‘very slim.’

He put the chances of him running for office again at “very slim” and shot down his friend’s suggestion he may seek a Trump appointment. Ose said he and his wife, who have two adult daughters, are getting to a stage where they want to get to work on their bucket list.

Said Ose: “We might go live in Spain for a year.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago