Eight years ago, Pennsylvania’s April primary carried surprising weight on the Democratic side, despite the late time slot. This year, it very well could play a big role in the Republican contest.
In the 2008 primary, then-senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama generated so much buzz that nearly triple the number of voters turned out compared to a normal year when the nomination is locked up long before Pennsylvania votes. This year, Republican voters in the Delaware Valley region are taking sides and hoping the race will be in play two months from now.
Donald Trump’s outspoken approach to campaigning appeals to Michael Cibik, the vice chairman of the Republican Party of Philadelphia. “He tells it like it is. He doesn’t filter it and he’s got thoughts. He’s addressing issues people don’t seem to want to talk about or are hush-hush about.”
Supporters say Trump has the best chance of capturing the country’s vote – not just the Republican nomination. New Jersey state Sen. Michael Doherty emphasizes Trump’s “crossover appeal,” saying Democrats would cross party lines to support the business mogul.
“Donald Trump is actually for the working man, the blue collar man, the minority worker who is struggling to make a living,” Doherty said who represents parts of Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren counties.
His business experience and plans to rejuvenate the American economy with tax cuts and bring back companies currently producing overseas are also part of why Doherty is backing Trump.
However, Cibik admits that some of Trump’s statements on the campaign trail haven’t done him any favors appealing to a broader base.
“When he said [Mexico is] sending over rapists, killers, whatever else, I think his choice of words were in-artful,” Cibik said. “I think he could have done much better in that.”
But that’s not to say Trump supporters want him to start mincing his words. Everyone, Cibik said, “wants to be politically correct.” That doesn’t apply to Trump. Supporters are also happy to support a candidate who isn’t a career politician.
Doherty said he’s more inclined to believe that Trump will follow through on his declared positions, like building a wall at the border with Mexico, because of his anti-establishment background. Changing immigration policies is a major concern for Doherty and other Trump devotees.
“I believe that Donald Trump will have a strong commitment to improve the situation there,” he said. “Most of the other elected officials and folks running for president, both Democrat and Republican … they’ll pay lip service to it during election season, but then they’ll go back to business as usual, which means they’re not going to do a darn thing about it.”
Though Trump has taken bold stances while campaigning, Philadelphia voters like Aldridk Gessa are more concerned with a candidate’s political record. That’s why the risk management professional and wife of Adam Lang, the 29th Republican Ward leader in Philadelphia, will turn out for Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas.
“He actually did sponsor a bill to repeal Obamacare,” Gessa said. “That was the first thing he did when he got to the Senate. And that’s exactly what he promised his constituents.”
Gessa’s beliefs are “grounded on conservatism,” she said, and Cruz seems like the most authentically conservative candidate in the race. She’s voted conservatively since emigrating from Cuba to escape its communist government.
“We have free health care, we have free education, we have a wage guarantee, we have a job guarantee, we have housing guarantees and we have food guarantees,” Gessa said of her home country. “I can summarize that by saying that it’s such a wonderful system that I, along with a million other Cubans, left, and continue to do so.”
While her resolutely right political stance makes Cruz the obvious choice for Gessa, Sen. Doherty said he’s ready to see compromise between Trump and Cruz. The candidates should consider cooperating, he said.
“If they continue to have this civil war, then they may open up a middle for [Sen. Marco] Rubio to go right through,” Doherty said. “They should be smart, strategically. They may have their differences, but I think if they can work together they can see that we’ll have a nominee that the base of the party can support.”