If nothing else, local GOP leaders say, Donald Trump’s participation in Thursday night’s debate among the top Republican contenders for president should be entertaining.
While leaders of the national Republican Party are reportedly concerned about the effect that the outspoken businessman could have on efforts to broaden the party’s appeal, local leaders aren’t all that worried.
“I’m not a fan of the Donald, but it’s obviously going to be up to the Republican electorate to determine who they want to run for president, and we’ve got a long road ahead of us,” said Luzerne County Republican Party Chairman Bill Urbanski.
“The election is almost a year away. To be concerned about who is going to be the nominee is way premature,” Urbanski said. “As far as the debate tomorrow night, I think it will be interesting.”
County GOP Vice Chairwoman Lynette Villano agreed. “I think it’s going to be fun to sit back and have some popcorn and watch the debate. We’re in for an entertaining evening.”
FOX News will broadcast the debate live at 9 p.m. Trump, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker were invited to participate. Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum were not.
Villano and Urbanski are elated that there are so many qualified GOP candidates.
Still, Villano doesn’t think Northeastern Pennsylvania will have much say in who will face off against the Democratic nominee for president come November 2016.
“By the time this election gets to Pennsylvania, it’s already going to be decided,” she said.
Thirty of the 50 states already will have held their primary elections prior to April 26, when Pennsylvania’s is scheduled.
But Urbanski and Villano both believe Trump has added a lot of zing to the race.
“As (conservative commentator) George Will said, Trump is running a ‘no fact’ campaign,” Urbanski said. “He throws no facts out there. He goes out and says whatever the hell he wants to say, which is refreshing, especially in an era of extreme political correctness. He doesn’t care about what the general public thinks about what he says.”
“I’ve never seen so many people who are excited about politics among my Democrat and Republican friends, people who would normally never comment on politics,” Villano said.
Here’s what some folks we found out and about today had to say about the Donald when we asked for their thoughts:
• “He doesn’t have to worry about campaign money. What I admire about him is he’s not in anyone’s pocket and he’s his own person. He doesn’t care whose toes he steps on. The only issue that I have with him is can he run a government? I didn’t agree with what he said about John McCain.” - Nick Fata, Scranton
• “I’m Democrat, so I won’t vote for him. I don’t think he’s qualified. He’s a rich, loud person. I don’t think he’s qualified to be president of the United States.” - Marty Redding, Pittston
• “He’s not afraid to say what needs to be said. Sometimes the way he says it may not be the best, but he says what a lot of people think. We need to do something about immigration because Mexico keeps dumping people here and the American people are paying for it. I think he would definitely be an upgrade. That doesn’t mean I would vote for him, but I think he would change things.” - Eric Zeidman, of Tunkhannock
• “I think he’s successfully tricked everyone and used the media to his advantage. I like him because he’s not overly politically correct. I like that he’s not afraid to say what he thinks and he’s not out there saying things he knows are going to garner support. He’s true to himself and I like that. I believe he’d be an upgrade. I know he doesn’t have a great record as far as crony capitalism is concerned, but he’s a guy who is not afraid to pull punches and do things that are going to shake the pot. He’s one of the most successful businessmen in America. In a fiscal sense, I think he would absolutely move us in the right direction.” - Nick Gettel, of Peckville
• “I’m glad to see he is stimulating a lot of interest, there’s no doubt about that. I don’t necessarily approve of all of his methods. I think he might be a little bit of a rabble-rouser but, at the same time, I respect him and he has people thinking. I would say because of the way he reacts so openly, he is certainly not diplomatic. Could that create more problems than it solves? I think it might.” - Tom Moran, of South Abington Township
• “Strictly for the sake of fixing our deficit, Donald Trump should be president for at least one term. He doesn’t care about anything other than generating cash and a spectacle.” - Omega Gold Spikes, 27, of Wilkes-Barre
• “Whenever you start a sentence with ‘all of any kind of people,’ you’re automatically wrong.” - Nighteyes Gold Spikes, 27, of Wilkes-Barre
•“So far in my opinion, Donald Trump is the only one who seems to be telling the truth. … But I honestly don’t vote, because I think they’re all clowns.” - Carol Rewick, of Greentown
• “I fully agree with his boldness.. But I’m deeply concerned. His stubbornness scares me. I think he would do something out of stubbornness instead of wisdom.” - April Scheller, of Dallas
• “I’m not much into politics,” he said. “But I don’t think he’s really a serious candidate. … I just think he’s enjoying himself.” - Mike Kubick, of Swoyersville
•“I think he has all the right things to say … but he’s also a guy whose business declared bankruptcy four times. I think he gets over people.” - Billy Langen, of Dallas