What New Hampshire Republicans have to say about Donald Trump
CENTER HARBOR, N.H. – Greg Anthes laughed when he saw the “Trump” sticker on the back window of the Ford Escape with Alabama plates in the parking lot of the Waukewan Golf Club.
Anthes, a selectman from New Durham, was on his way in to a town hall meeting with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who became the 16th Republican to announce his candidacy for president this week, and was in the Granite State for his first trip as a candidate.
Anthes’ reaction to seeing the sticker for Donald Trump, the real estage mogul and reality TV personality whose own presidential candidacy is dominating the news these days, suggested that Anthes was dismissive of Trump.
But Anthes’ reaction when asked about Trump revealed the complexity beneath the surface of Trump’s current popularity. Even people who laugh at him, like Anthes, don’t dismiss him.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Anthes said of Trump’s candidacy. “I think he’s brought forth something that needs to be discussed. So I don’t have a problem with Trump at all, other than at some times he’s a little blunt. But some business people are that way and they’re not used to being polished.”
Anthes said that Trump’s rise in the polls is largely due to his comments about illegal immigration. Of all the things Trump has said, the comment that drew the most attention was his remark in mid-June that among those who come from Mexico to the U.S., some are “rapists.”
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said .
Anthes said he did not think Trump’s comments were hostile toward Latinos.
“I don’t think he’s against minorities. I truly don’t believe that in his heart. I just think he says things and it just comes out, it’s a little harsh sometimes,” Anthes said.
Anthes implied that Trump is stirring up a conversation now, but that he will likely not sustain his current popularity. “We were big [Rudy] Giuliani fans and he was a big front leader [in 2008] and then disappeared. So a lot of the front leaders now are not going to be around in two or three months,” Anthes said.
Others at Kasich events here and in Portsmouth earlier on Wednesday also offered praise for Trump.
“He’s saying things that need to be said that everyone else is afraid to say,” said Marie Lemieux, of Portsmouth. She was particularly upset about immigration as well. “We get some people who have been deported multiple times and they shouldn’t be in the country,” she said.
And Dave Owens, in Portsmouth, said he found Trump’s brash style “refreshing.”
“He’s willing to say what he thinks. He’s not worried about being politically correct. He’s not worried about offending the media. He takes on anyone, anywhere, without holding back,” Owens said.
But there was plenty of animosity toward Trump as well at the Kasich events. Former House Speaker Doug Scamman turned the praise for Trump’s bluntness on its head.
“People respect people who say what they think. Sometimes you want to think before you say things,” Scamman said. He predicted Trump will drop in the polls soon. “I can’t believe he’s going to go very far,” he said.
John Hodsdon, a farmer from Meredith, said Trump is a “buffoon.”
“He’s been a successful one though,” Hodsdon cracked.
The most visceral reaction to Trump came from veteran Dave Moorhead, who was an infantry soldier in the Vietnam War, with the Army’s First Calvary Division. Moorhead said he had been open to considering Trump for president until Trump said last weekend that U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-A.Z.) – who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict – was not a hero.
That comment, Moorhead said, was “the lowest most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard come out of some human being’s mouth.”
“I absolutely am totally disgusted by what he had to say,” Moorhead said. “I was interested in listening to [Trump]. Now I won’t even go and listen to him.”