Trump attracts defecting Democrats as ‘he makes sense’
Billionaire Republican converts life-long Indiana Democrats with ‘strong arm’ plans
Donald Trump greets his supporters at a campaign rally in South Bend, Indiana. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA
The businessman rocking American political elites in the race for the White House has turned this life-long Democrat into a Republican voter.
“I crossed over because of Trump. He makes sense,” the 63-year-old said.
Angry with the cost of illegal immigration to the country, Kil-Myers likes Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
“The country is going to hell in a hand basket. All the liberalness is ruining it, and we are getting nowhere. We need someone who is going to have a strong arm and not do all this pussyfooting around with politically correct verbiage.”
The Indiana native was among several thousand Trump supporters attending the Republican front runner’s rally on Monday night in the Century Centre in South Bend, home to the University of Notre Dame. Many in the packed crowd wore “Irish” caps and T-shirts in support of the college’s “Fighting Irish” sports teams, along with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign paraphernalia.
The rally was one of a blizzard of campaign events held by Trump (69) and his chief rival, the Texas senator and scripture-quoting conservative Ted Cruz (45), as they criss-crossed Indiana in the run-up to yesterday’s do-or-die Republican primary election.
Eileen Wakefield (56), a nurse from Mishawaka, was another Democrat backing Trump in Indiana. She held a “Donald Democrat” sign as she sat on the floor of the hall to rest an ankle aching from hours of standing while waiting for Trump.
“A lot of the stuff that they have done over the last seven years is a little too far from my comfort,” said the Indiana woman who had worked for the Democrats in one Indiana county in the past and campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008.
When he eventually took the stage on Monday night after a wait for more than two hours, Trump took aim at his main Republican and Democratic opponents.
“Lyin’ Ted does not have the temperament to be doing this. He is choking like a dog because he is losing so badly,” the businessman told supporters.
The billionaire New Yorker went further yesterday, fuelling an internet conspiracy theory with a claim in an interview with Fox News that Cruz’s father Rafael was photographed with Lee Harvey Oswald handing out pro-Fidel Castro literature.
Cruz responded with an angry barrage of insults directed at Trump during a campaign stop in Evansville, Indiana, calling the businessman “a pathological liar,” “utterly amoral” and “a narcissist.”
Faris Daikhi (20), a restaurant equipment vendor and Trump supporter, said Cruz focused too much on winning over evangelical and Christian conservatives.
“I was at a Ted Cruz rally last night, it’s not happening. There were just two, three hundred people there. This is not a sermon; it’s a campaign,” he said.
Trump arrived in the midwestern state with a gale at his back from landslide victories in six northeastern states and a commanding lead among the party delegates who will formally pick the Republican presidential nominee at a convention in July.
“We are going to win the whole thing. We are going to beat her in a landslide,” the cocksure businessman told the supporters at his rally, referring to Hillary Clinton (69) whose victory in the Democratic race is just a formality.
The Republican primary is traditionally wrapped up long before Indiana but the “Never Trump” movement has kept Cruz and Ohio governor John Kasich (63), a distant third, in the race, even though mathematically it is impossible for either man to reach the required 1,237 delegates at the convention’s first ballot.
The businessman’s insurgency has been helped by non-Republicans. Trump has won over most voters identifying themselves as independents in the big Republican primaries of New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and Massachusetts.
While the billionaire has brought new voters into the party’s primary in record numbers, most polls showing Clinton beating Trump in November’s general election.
For the first time in more than two months, Rasmussen Reports showed Trump beating Clinton by 41 per cent to 39 per cent in a poll on Monday.
In South Bend, Trump’s supporters were already chatting about who might be Trump’s vice-presidential pick.
“I would like to see Condoleezza Rice,” said Cindy Gillis (55), a nurse and lawyer standing next to her friend Tamara Kil-Myers, the new convert.
“That would be a great pick,” said Tamara’s husband, Gerry Myers (69), a semi-retired physician, animated at the suggestion. “She has all that experience from the Bush administration. I didn’t think of her. Absolutely, what a choice!”