Posted: Aug. 4, 2016
STANDING BY THEIR MAN
By Celia Cohen
At the top of the Delaware Republicans' statewide ballot, candidates are doing the Tammy Wynette thing. They are standing by their man.
They are still with Donald Trump, even after the unpredictable showman nominated by their party for president appears to have confused two of the basics of American politics.
Gold Star mothers, good. Vladimir Putin, bad.
Colin Bonini, who is expected to be the Republican candidate for governor, was an early adopter for Trump. Bonini spoke at a rally for Trump in April before the state's presidential primary, which Trump won, and Bonini has not changed his mind.
"I'm going to stick with him. I do think the coverage is biased, and I do believe he's going to right the ship and run a powerful campaign," Bonini said.
"I think the reform movement that Donald Trump is head of is a real movement."
Also undeterred is Hans Reigle, the Republican congressional candidate. Reigle is a military man. He was a pilot in the Air Force Reserve and the Delaware Army National Guard and retired from the Air Force Reserve as a major in 2002.
Reigle has gotten some heat for supporting Trump from Sean Barney, one of the Democratic congressional candidates, who also wore the uniform. Barney earned a Purple Heart for taking a bullet in the neck with the Marines in Iraq and objected to the way Trump made light of a Purple Heart medal given to him at a recent rally, but Reigle is not backing away from Trump.
"I don't particularly like what he said, but I'm not renouncing him," Reigle said. "I'm running my own campaign. It's what is Hans Reigle going to do?"
Trump is not expected to carry Delaware. The state has not voted for a Republican for president since the first George Bush in 1988, and a recent PublicMind Poll, based at Fairleigh Dickinson University, had Hillary Clinton ahead for the Democrats by 42 percent to 32 percent.
Clinton's lead in the poll was due to her showing upstate in New Castle County, where the bulk of the population lives and more than half of the voters are registered Democrats. Trump was ahead downstate in the more conservative parts of the state.
As the campaign season builds, the Republicans are continuing to consolidate their downstate base, whether it is relevant to Trump or not.
Voter registration in downstate legislative districts keeps flipping the Republicans' way.
Among the 41 districts for the state House of Representatives, there were only three districts with more Republican than Democratic voters at the time of the last election in 2014, but there are four districts today with one more trending. Among the 21 districts for the state Senate, the Republicans have gone from two districts with a registration edge in 2014 to four today.
The Republicans also saw a state representative district upstate slip to a registration advantage for the Democrats.
Not that the flurry of district-flipping can help the Republicans gain any ground in the General Assembly, where the Democrats outnumber them 12-9 in the state Senate and 25-16 in the state House, because all of those districts already have Republican legislators in them.
The voter registration just appears to be catching up to the voting pattern -- which is the reason there does not appear to be much sentiment to give a big share of the credit to Trump.
Bonini, the gubernatorial candidate who is a state senator himself, chalks up the changes mostly to good old-fashioned demographics. Sussex is a retirement destination, after all.
"Lots of folks are moving to Sussex County at that stage in life where you tend to be more conservative. But do I think Trump has generated interest in people who had never been interested in politics? Yes," Bonini said.
John Fluharty, a Republican strategist, does not discount a Trump effect, but he thinks it is more likely voters downstate are moving to the Republicans in reaction to the Democrats.
"It's a combination. You'll find some of it is because of Trump, but it is also because of the field of candidates the Democrats are putting forth in the state. The Democrats are entering their 'Tea Party' phase with the emergence of the Progressives. They will soon be out of the mainstream," he said.
Trump can get Republicans to stand by their man. Maybe not move for him, though.