FARGO — Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., defended his Sunday endorsement of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, saying he’s a candidate that can give the party new supporters and a strong shot in November.

Cramer said the party rallying around Trump and making him a stronger candidate would be better than splitting the party at the national convention July 18-21 in Cleveland.

He said Trump’s campaign, despite concerns by some factions within the GOP with his campaign style and blunt rhetoric, has fired up the party’s base and gotten more people involved. Cramer said the party should embrace the wave of newly interested Republicans.

“We have an opportunity to welcome these new people … or disenfranchise them,” Cramer said.

He said a brokered convention could cost the Republicans the November election.

“The best way to keep our party united is if Trump’s endorsed,” said Cramer, who characterized Trump as a movement that be embraced.

Earlier this year, Cramer conducted a nonbinding online presidential straw poll which had Trump receiving 1,745 out of 4,740 votes in the poll, or 37.7 percent. In second was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with 1,220 votes, or 25.7 percent.

Rounding out the Top 5 were Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with 17.3 percent, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 11.6 percent and Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 3.2 percent.

Cramer’s poll was meant to compensate for the state GOP not sponsoring a caucus this year.

The importance of the 28 national convention delegates have increased during the fight between Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich for delegates coming down to the wire.

Cruz was the keynote convention speaker at Scheels Arena Saturday, while Trump supporter and former presidential candidate Ben Carson spoke Sunday. Former New Hampshire Sen. Gordon Humphrey also spoke Sunday as a Kasich supporter.

(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at