Unlike Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s first rallies in Connecticut in April, Saturday’s event at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield included remarks from the Republican establishment.
While Republican officials were still trying to figure out what to make of Trump in April — they had pretty much made up their mind by August.
All of Connecticut’s 28 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland at the end of July supported Trump. Those who didn’t stayed home and didn’t attend the convention.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, was one who stayed away from the convention and has declined to support Trump.
“I have not endorsed Trump, nor do I see myself endorsing him at this time,” Fasano has said. “However, I do respect the democratic process and the fact that the people of our country chose him to be their nominee.”
However, Fasano has not gone as far as former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, who endorsed Clinton last week.
As Trump’s poll numbers have dropped, former Republican office holders like Shays have come out in support of Clinton, whose name got a number of “boos” from a crowd of 5,000 Saturday.
“Lock her up,” the crowd chanted as they waited for Trump to take the stage.
Connecticut Republicans who joined Trump at the rally included state Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, state Rep. Dan Carter, who is running for U.S. Senate, Sherman First Selectman Clay Cope, who is running against U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, and state Rep. John Shaban, who is running against U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.
Joe Visconti, a West Hartford Republican who is volunteering for the Trump campaign, said that this is not a conventional campaign and they are going after the nearly one million voters who haven’t voted in any of the last four elections. He said there’s also a silent group of Democrats who are supporting Trump because they like his economic message.
Trump asked all the Democrats at the sweltering hot Pitt Center at Sacred Heart on Saturday to raise their hands to show that his support crosses party lines. A smattering of the crowd raised their hands and cheered.
“We’re making a big move for the state of Connecticut,” Trump told the crowd.
He dismissed criticism that his visit to Connecticut was a waste of time, even though his supporters said they would like to see him spend time in swing states too.
Republican Party Chairman JR Romano said Republicans in other parts of the country wonder what it’s like to work in a blue state.
“I have the ability to take on Democrats everyday,” Romano said. “I love my job.”
Romano said Connecticut is the new swing state. Connecticut has seven electoral votes and has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.
Quinnipiac University Political Science Professor Scott McLean said Trump has pockets of support in Connecticut, mostly in the Naugatuck Valley where there are blue collar workers and where the manufacturing base has disappeared.
Despite those supporters, McLean said the odds are against him winning. Mitt Romney, whose background appealed to many Connecticut Republicans, lost the state by 11 percentage points in 2012.
“This is a chance for him to be a leader in a state where Republicans are fighting to take back the General Assembly,” McLean said. “Maybe Trump could make the difference there.”
McLean doubted Trump would be able to help any of the Congressional candidates defeat the five Democratic incumbents in the House and he wondered whether Trump would also be hosting a fundraiser before the rally in Connecticut, but Trump’s campaign declined to say whether it would be holding a fundraiser.
Clinton’s campaign will be holding a $33,000-per-plate fundraiser in Greenwich on Monday.
Romano said he thinks it’s interesting that Trump is talking to the Connecticut public at a rally while Clinton is coming here to use the state as an ATM.
Trump took the stage closer to 8 p.m. and during the first five minutes of his speech pointed toward the cameras and reporters and said “they’re the worst human beings in the world.”
That was the first of many criticisms of the media Saturday.
“I am not running against Crooked Hillary,” Trump said. “I am running against the crooked media.” The crowd of jeering supporters turned their attention to the media pen and booed reporters.
While he spent a portion of his speech criticizing “Crooked Hillary,” he spent at least a third criticizing the news media and another third talking about how he’s going to improve the economy.
Trump opined that President Barack Obama “was the founder of ISIS,” the Islamic terrorist group. Trump said that and CNN wouldn’t air his comments.
“CNN is disgusting,” Trump said.
He bragged about banning reporters from various news organizations, including the Washington Post, from his rallies and said the TV networks that he refuses to speak with have bad ratings.
Trump also mentioned Connecticut’s loss of General Electric to Boston and pointed to a former GE executive who was in the audience.
“The great John Myers,” Trump said. “. . . You wouldn’t leave if Trump were governor, I’ll tell you that.”
GE is in the process of leaving Connecticut after 42 years and relocating their headquarters to Boston.
Trump said Connecticut is on its way to being the “highest tax state in the country.”
His speech lasted more than an hour.
Connecticut Democrats held a rally outside the university before the rally.
“Donald Trump stands for everything we in Connecticut stand against,” Connecticut Democratic Party Chairman Nick Balletto said. “From inciting violence against his political opponent, to insulting a Gold Star family, to mocking a reporter with a physical disability, Trump has shown time and time again that he is temperamentally unfit and lacks the judgment to serve as commander-in-chief.”
The comments were similar to those expressed Friday by a group of Democrats at a press conference in Hartford.