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Who Supports Donald Trump in Rhode Island?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Who's Trump's base of support in RI?

Donald Trump is leading in the polls — who supports him in Rhode Island?

From a current legislator, a former legislator, a candidate for office and town GOP head, and a national party woman are just some of the supporters on board for Trump, while others in the state Republican party are lining up behind other candidates.

“I am wholeheartedly supporting the Trump campaign for President. I think the overwhelming support he is receiving is indicative of how thirsty people are for an end to the severe political correctness, and for a candidate who is more concerned about the rights and prosperity of the many as opposed to worrying about offending the few,” said Beth Moura, who served in the Rhode Island Senate in from 2011 to 2013.

"Donald Trump is often referred to as ‘unelectable,’ just like so many other Republicans were -- Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and locally Donald Carcieri are a few names that come to mind," said Moura. "Mr. Trump speaks to people as if they are equals, and does not water down the issues or speak regurgitate the same empty rhetoric we hear over and over from politicians both locally and nationally.”

In 2012, President Barack Obama was elected with 62.7% of the vote in Rhode Island — 279,677 votes — garnering all four electoral votes, while Republican nominee Mitt Romney got 35.2% of the vote with 157,204 votes. 

“I think the support [in the state] for Trump is interesting,” said State Representative Joe Trillo, who is the state's honorary chair for the Trump campaign.  “I can’t tell you how many Democrats, elected or otherwise, tell me ‘Trump’s my guy,’ but they won’t come out and say it.  They can’t.  I’ve seen people cross [party] lines in the past, but not like this. I’m hearing from people I wouldn’t have heard from otherwise.” 

Trump supporters in Rhode Island include former GOP State Representative candidate and Chair of the South Kingstown Lacey McGreevey, charter member of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies Martha Stamp, and former John Robitaille deputy campaign manager Patrick Mannix, among others. 

"I have waited for over twenty years for the tide would turn," said Stamp. "Thousands are feeling the pinch in their own pocket books and our leaders just not listening to 'we the people.' When people's paychecks get smaller and smaller they will have woken up with the help of Trump, for he tapped into the silent majority."

Party Perspective

The Iowa caucus is less that two weeks away on February 1, followed by the New Hampshire primary on February 9. Rhode Island's primary is on April 26.

“Part of the issue that is that none of our five general officers [in the state] is a Republican right now,” said Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell.  “So in some ways, who’s getting behind certain presidential candidates is not as significant, but in other ways it enables party members to say, 'Hey, this is how I feel.’  I’ve got some favorites, but from an official capacity I’ve got to maintain a level of neutrality.”

The most recent CBS/NYT poll found that 36% of 442 national Republican primary voters support Trump, compared to 19% for Ted Cruz and 12% for Marco Rubio.

Bell said that if Trump, who he thinks has “toned it down,” doesn’t prevail, that he doesn’t see it being used against anyone who came out and supported him this election cycle. 

“In [Rep.] Trillo’s case, there are plenty of [Democrats] who will vote for Trump I’m sure,” said Bell.  “I think it would be a huge mistake for anyone to use it against [Trillo]."

Bell acknowledged that Trump would have a difficult time in Iowa, where Cruz is currently leading in the polls — but that until any votes are cast, the outcome is “anyone’s guess.” 

“Let’s remember, Santorum won Iowa. Hucakabee won Iowa,” said Bell of the two failed Presidential candidates in 2012 and 2008, respectively.  “If overall Trump’s at 31%, and Cruz is 19%, whatever the numbers are, there's not been one primary vote cast."

Bell said he’s seen a shift in Trump’s strategy as the candidates enter the primary and caucus season.

“After all his stadium appearances, and large rallies, he finally showed up a diner in New Hampshire, as if he’s realized that retail politics do matter,” said Bell.  “Then again, as a student of political science, I can tell you everything you learned in a textbook has been turned on its head this election.  And we’ll only see what happens when the votes are cast -- I think there will be surprises.”

Rhode Island Rubio Support

Marco Rubio

Bell said that he knows of at least “six or seven” Republican Rhode Island General Assembly members that he knew of who are supporting Marco Rubio — including Representative Bobby Nardolilloo.

’I’ve been a huge Rubio supporter right out of the gate,” said Nardolillo. “Just hearing him speak, because of his age, family, and dynamic --  I see myself in him.  He just paid off his student loans.  When you close your eyes, I think you want to be moved and believe what you're hearing from a candidate.  And that’s Rubio.”

Gary Sasse, the former Director of Administration in the state, and founder and Director of the Hassenfeld Center for Public Leadership at Bryant University, is the Rubio campaign chair in Rhode Island. 

Nardolillo said he didn’t “want to badmouth others,” but he had harsh words for Trump.  

“I am not a Trump fan at all.  I’ve been shocked,” said Nardolillo. “This is where we've come to in this country — such a state of disappointment, that we're so desperate for change that it's going the way of entertainment.  Trump’s insulting to cultures and ideas.  As I said, when you close your eyes, you need someone who unites, not divides -- and I believe Rubio’s the one to bring the country back together."

And if Trump win’s the GOP nomination?

“When you're in the position I'm in, you have to support the GOP nominee,” said Nardolillo.  “When you come to the table you have to do what's best for the country,  Trump winning would be like biting into an onion.  You’d have to do it.  But I wouldn’t like it.”  

Editor's Note:  A earlier edition indentified Moura incorrectly as a lawyer. 


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