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Can Trump be stopped? Political observers doubt Boston Globe’s ‘stop Trump’ strategy will work



Last modified: Thursday, February 25, 2016
NORTHAMPTON — Local political observers support the sentiments behind a Boston Globe editorial that lays out a strategy to stop real estate mogul Donald Trump from winning the state’s primary on March 1, but don’t believe it will be successful.

The editorial asks registered voters who are unenrolled with either major party to take a Republican ballot and vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Trump opponent the Globe has previously endorsed, in an effort to counter the large margin of victory predicted for Trump in Massachusetts.

Ralph Whitehead, a journalism professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, questioned whether many Democratic-leaning unenrolled voters would follow the Globe’s call when the Massachusetts Democratic primary is so closely contested.

“If I were an unenrolled voter who leaned toward the Democratic Party, my plan would be to vote in the Democratic primary,” Whitehead said.

Unenrolled voters make up more than 53 percent of Massachusetts voters while registered Democrats make up 35 percent and Republicans 11 percent. In Hampshire County, the numbers are similar, with unenrolled at above 53 percent, Democrats at 37 percent and Republicans at about 8.5 percent.

Registered Democrats and Republicans can only vote in their respective primaries, but unenrolled voters are able to vote in either. The Globe in Tuesday’s editorial encouraged that entire group of voters to cast Republican ballots to block Trump from getting most of the state’s 42 GOP delegates.

Whitehead said he doubted there would be enough Republican-leaning or independent unenrolled voters who take the Globe’s advice to stop Trump from winning. An Emerson College poll shows that Trump, at 50 percent, maintains a better than 3-to-1 advantage over his next closest rival, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who took 16 percent of the vote. Kasich polled at 13 percent.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the two remaining candidates on the Democratic side, are in a dead heat, according to the same poll. Both have come to western Massachusetts: Clinton held an October fundraiser in Holyoke and Sanders has held three local rallies, with the most recent bringing out 9,000 supporters at UMass.

“I think that the Globe is suggesting an interesting course of action and is making a solid case for that course of action, but I think it’s likely to come up short,” Whitehead said.

State Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman, is co-chairman of Trump’s campaign in Massachusetts. He described the Globe’s call for uncommitted voters to flock to Kasich as a call for “political dirty tricks.”

“You wonder why circulation (of the Globe) continues to decrease,” Diehl said. “People no longer trust them as a source of objective news but as a vehicle for an opinion.”

He does not believe many people will follow the editorial’s advice.

“Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are locked in a tight race,” Diehl said. “In a state where politics is treated like a sport, people are savvy about what’s going on and voters for both parties aren’t going to be looking to waste a vote by doing shenanigans like the Globe is urging.”

Diehl, a rare elected Massachusetts official supporting Trump, said he feels that he and Trump approach politics from the same origin. Diehl began as a businessman, and while he has not been nearly so successful as the billionaire Trump, he said he, like Trump, is trying to restore integrity to politics. This has involved efforts to repeal the gas tax and to stop the Olympics from coming to Boston and creating debt for the state, he said.

“What Donald Trump is proposing is for the federal government to start listening to the people,” he said.

John Andrulis, a Republican state committeeman in Northampton, said he liked the Globe editorial’s sentiment.

“Anything that stops Trump sounds good to me,” he said.

At the same time, he said it did not seem like a practical way to stop Trump from winning in Massachusetts. Andrulis said Trump has shown popularity both with people who consider themselves Republicans and people who consider themselves independents.

“I don’t really see that there are a lot of the rank-and-file types, or just uncommitted voters who would try to stop Trump themselves,” he said. “There is more of that feeling among the Republican establishment, and those people are almost helpless because there aren’t enough of them to stop the voters rallying around Trump.”

Andrulis also said he believed that Trump was the largest beneficiary of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush leaving the race. In South Carolina, when Bush was competing, Trump received 32.5 percent of the vote and Rubio and Cruz combined for 45 percent of the vote, with Bush taking about 8 percent. In Nevada, Rubio and Cruz still combined for 45 percent, while Trump received 46 percent, a 13.5 percent boost, Andrulis said.

“Trump was the one who benefited and he has more delegates than everyone else put together,” he said.

Matt Barron, a political consultant in Chesterfield, said he did not believe there would be enough “mischief” voters on the Democrat side of the unenrolled voters to make a difference, and that many would be participating in the Democratic primary.

“The lion’s share will go to Sanders,” Barron said of such unenrolled voters. “Some may go for Clinton.”

Barron said he believes the only way Trump’s momentum will be slowed is if the Republican field narrows in the coming days and significant money and resources are put behind the remaining candidate.

But he doesn’t see that as very likely.

“I was waiting, like many other people, for another shoe to drop,” he said. “Now that we’ve actually gotten through some contests on the primary and caucus calendar, I’m seeing that he’s probably going to be their nominee.”

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@gazettenet.com.