The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Donald Trump wins Mock Convention’s GOP nomination

Trump’s win was no surprise, students said. But the speakers sparked disagreement and conversation
Mock Con Instagram
Donald Trump addresses students and praises Washington and Lee in a pre-recorded video.

Former President Donald Trump handily won the Republican nomination for Washington and Lee’s 28th Mock Convention, netting 97% of delegates.

Here’s the vote breakdown out of 2,429 delegates:

  • Trump: 2,353
  • Nikki Haley: 64
  • Ron DeSantis: 9 
  • Vivek Ramaswamy: 3

“I don’t think it’s a surprise. I think this is probably one of the easiest predictions that Mock Con has had to make,” said Sai Chebrolu, ’26.

Instead of calling in after the votes were counted, as previous nominees have, Trump sent a pre-recorded video message to Mock Con advising students to “have a great life.”

Though Trump’s nomination was near-certain, given his status as the race’s decisive frontrunner, the convention included other surprises.

Convention successes

Mock Con’s political team brought back the tradition of predicting the presidential nominee’s running mate. Students chose GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.

Stefanik’s potential was noted by pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson on Friday. The political team didn’t have many numbers to work with for the vice president prediction, Political Chair Foster Harris said. But Stefanik sticks out on one number: fundraising prowess.

“Elise Stefanik, who is not number one, number two in the House, raised a very impressive close to $3 or $4 million,” Harris said. “It was also a question of who’s going to make the party a bigger tent. And then finally, what is President Trump actually looking for?”

Mock Con raised $1.2 million, tripling the previous record of donations, to fund the event, Alumni Chair Virginia Hatcher, ’25, said. Fundraising also helped pay for the convention’s surprise guest star, country singer-songwriter Billy Ray Cyrus.

Students and speakers praised the time and effort Mock Con’s leaders put into making the convention happen in what former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson described as the “most controversial and unpredictable year in politics” yet.

“We were a few 18 year olds told to take over a 112-year legacy, handed a piece of the fabric of Washington and Lee and told to make it our own,” General Chair Ramsay Trask, ’24, said in a speech.

Balloons shower the convention hall after Billy Ray Cyrus performs with Firerose.

Speakers from across the party

Mock Con leaders invited governors, commentators and federal officeholders to the convention in order to represent the current Republican Party, Trask said. While most speakers often agreed, some highlighted the debates that currently divide the party. 

“We had Asa Hutchinson and then Charlie Kirk back-to-back, where Charlie listened to what he said, and then tried to rebut it. So students could figure out who they agreed with on what,” Trask said. 

Students interviewed by the Phi said they thought the common thread among the speeches was contempt for the Biden administration and attacks on Biden’s age and mental fitness. Students also saw the economy, foreign relations, and young voters’ disillusionment in modern politics as main points emphasized by speakers. 

Chebrolu said she appreciated seeing a balance between opinionated commentators such as Candace Owens and those with first-hand experience serving in government.

“When I think of the current Republican Party, I think of really extreme values,” she said. “But some of the speakers we brought in today spoke to that middle-ground opinion that common Americans believe in.” 

Politics professor Brian Alexander, who gave the opening address at the first session, urged students to turn their disagreements into action.

“When you hear something you agree with, I want you to turn to a friend and say, ‘We need to vote,’” Alexander said. “When you hear something you disagree with, I want you to turn to a friend and say, ‘We need to vote.’” 

Controversies and flights from Lexington

Some students, professors and alumni were uncomfortable with the event and its speakers.

An Instagram story and reel with Trump’s video posted by Mock Convention’s official Instagram account set off alumni pushback. The official account described Trump as “our next president” in a story. 

Hannah Dewing ’19, commented on the reel: “a prediction for the republican party’s nominee for president is not a nomination or an endorsement for president of the united states. i would advise that you adjust your copy!” That comment is no longer visible.

Trump himself seemed to misconstrue the purpose of the convention in his personalized video to students.

“By the time it finishes, I hope I get your endorsement,” he said.

Some students who attended the event criticized how rarely Haley’s name was mentioned. Only Hutchinson, who endorsed Haley, and Anderson appeared to take her candidacy seriously.

“So far, this has just been a Trump fest,” Eli Staubi, ’25, said after the convention’s third session, before Hutchinson took the stage. “Haley’s name has been mentioned once… The only person coming to maybe challenge Trump is Asa Hutchinson.”

Elizabeth Underwood, ’24L, said she was struck by how the convention catered to donors and important guests compared to 2020. In the 2020 convention, the VIP section was off to the side, Underwood said. This year, it was spread across the front.

Underwood said some of the speakers who made anti-transgender and anti-Black Lives Matter jokes, like Donald Trump Jr., seemed more oriented to ultra-conservative donors than the variety of students who also attend the event.

Donald Trump Jr. called a transgender athlete “it” at one point during his speech.

“It sort of made a mockery of the convention itself… by making these crude and offensive jokes when you have minority students and transgender students in the student body,” said Underwood, who was a member of College Republicans as an undergraduate.

At least one student and multiple professors reported that they were leaving Lexington for the weekend to avoid controversial and hateful speakers. Anna Brodsky, head of the Russian studies department, said she left town to avoid passively observing a Republican Party that is “moving toward” the positions of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s scary and disheartening, and because I deal with it professionally, I didn’t want to deal with it on the weekend,” Brodsky said.

But not all Democrats left campus. Those who stayed told the Phi that they appreciated getting to hear from some of the biggest voices in the Republican Party and, in some cases, meeting and shaking hands with the politicians who are shaping current policy.  

Stepan Onyshchuk, ’27, said he was impressed by the students who opened their minds to new points of view.

“For me, the highlight of the convention was when, after Governor Youngkin spoke, my friend, who’s an ardent Democrat, started a standing ovation for him.”

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Emma Malinak, Managing Editor
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