Delaware GOP hopes to capitalize on Trump effect

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump acknowledges photographers after speaking at a campaign rally in Baton Rouge

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump acknowledges photographers after speaking at a campaign rally in Baton Rouge

Party leaders are urging voters to register as Republicans so they can vote for or against Donald Trump.

When it comes to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, it seems like there is little middle ground. It’s a case of love him or hate him. A recent Quinnipiac University national poll showed while 39 percent of Republicans or Republican-leaning voters would support Trump, another 28 percent definitely not support Trump.

In an effort to play off that disparity of opinion, the Delaware GOP is reaching out through emails and social media to urge Delaware voters to register as Republicans so they can have a say in the primary process.

“If you want to have a chance to weigh in on your opinion pro or con on Donald Trump, you have to be a Republican,” Delaware GOP Chairman Charlie Copeland said. “We want people to register and become a Republican, and if they want to do it because they like Donald Trump, or they want to do it because they don’t like Donald Trump, we’re happy to have them.”

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Copeland says while opinions of Trump may vary, he is a smart guy. “You don’t get to be where he is by being an idiot,” Copeland said. “You may think that he is coarse, you may think that he doesn’t have civil debate, you may not like his ideas, but you can’t say that he’s not smart.”

When Delaware’s April primary arrives, Trump and a large slate of candidates will still be in the running for Republicans to pick. “I think Delaware will actually play a role this year, which is good for us,” Copeland said.

While Democrats outnumber Republicans in Delaware by more than 125,000 voters, there is some precedent for party switching to impact primary races. Copeland points to Gov. Jack Markell’s surprise upset of John Carney, who was endorsed by the Democratic Party in that gubernatorial primary contest. “Back in 2008, Jack Markell went around and tried to convince a lot of people that he was a Republican and therefore they should switch and vote for him in a primary, and a certain number of people did that,” Copeland said.

As of Feb. 1, there were nearly 183,000 registered Republicans in Delaware. That’s an increase of about 2,500 voters from Feb. 1, 2015. Over the same time period, Democrats added about 4,000 voters to their registration rolls.

Even though the Democrats lead in voters continues to grow, Copeland sees a silver lining down south. “Somewhere in the next couple of months, we will actually pass Democrats in registration in Sussex County,” Copeland said. Right now, there are 57,126 registered Democrats in Sussex, compared to 56,870 Republicans. “We will actively be working to grow our registration in the state of Delaware because we understand that people tend to vote their registration.” Republicans still trail by more than 110,000 voters in New Castle County, the state’s most populous.

Delaware’s presidential primary will be held on Tuesday, April 26. To be eligible to vote, residents must be registered by Friday, Feb. 26. So time is running out for those looking to switch parties to vote for or against Trump. “You’ve got to think in advance, you can’t wake up on primary day and say ‘I’m going to switch and go vote,’” Copeland said.

Copeland said the party is working to coordinate candidate visits to Delaware in the coming months, but nothing has been set up yet.

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