Donald Trump scored a runaway victory in Rhode Island’s Republican presidential primary Tuesday). Trump won 64 percent of the vote, compared to 24 percent for John Kasich and 10 percent for Ted Cruz. Trump supporters marked the victory at Chapel Grille in Cranston last night.
Trump’s share of the vote in Rhode Island was the best showing of his campaign. Not surprisingly, the results delighted state Representative Joe Trillo, the honorary chairman of Trump’s campaign, as he celebrated with a small group of supporters. Trillo gave this explanation for the depth of Trump’s support in Rhode Island.
“He relates to the average person," Trillo said. "The average person understands what he’s talking about that is happening to the country, that he wants to take it and basically turn it around and bring it back to some of the areas when we were a great country.”
Trump ginned up his Rhode Island campaign when he stumped Monday during a rally in Warwick. His almost hour-long speech featured familiar themes: Trump vowed to create jobs. He hurled insults at his political rivals. And he warned about what he called a lack of immigration safeguards.
"Syrian refugees are now being resettled in Rhode Island," Trump said. "We don’t know where they’re from, they have no documentation. We all have hearts and we can build safe zones in Syria and we’ll get the Gulf states to put up the money. We’re not putting up the money, but I’ll get that done. But you know what? We can’t let this happen. But you have a lot of them resettling in Rhode Island – just lock your doors, folks, lock your doors."
Trump’s critics accuse him of fear-mongering and making exaggerated claims, among other things. But Trump’s supporters said he has the right stuff to move America forward.
"I believe Mr. Trump is a real leader," said Edward Doura of North Smithfield. "He knows how to get the job done and I have full confidence for him."
Doura is running as a Trump delegate. He said he is not surprised by the margin of Trump’s victory in Rhode Island: "Not at all – failed Democratic leadership over the years. I think people are finally awoken. We’ve had four years of Governor Chafee, followed by now Governor Raimondo. And I believe people want someone that they have the confidence in to get the job done right now."
Trump won every community in Rhode Island except one. He got 73 percent of the vote in predominantly Latino Central Falls, where Clinton won 59 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. In Providence, Trump got a little more than 50 percent of the vote. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders got 51 percent and Clinton received 47 percent. Still, Trump's statewide total of 39,059 votes was significantly less than the comparable number for Sanders (66,720) and Clinton (52,493).
Trump’s Rhode Island chairman, Trillo, pointed to Sanders’ statewide victory over Clinton as an important signal.
"You know what that does? That sends a message to the Democrats in this state that no longer do they even want Hillary Clinton after the Clintons have been to this state over and over," Trillo said. "And between Bill Clinton and Hillary, people are saying, ‘we’ve had it, we don’t want you.’ "
Nonetheless, Hillary Clinton has about 90 percent of the delegates needed to win the Democratic presidential nomination. And even if Trump’s sweep of Rhode Island and four other states strengthens his hand, some supporters wonder about how he might fare against Clinton in November.
But Martha Stamp of South Kingstown, a 30-year veteran of Republican politics, is not concerned. Like Trillo, she calls Trump’s popularity in Rhode Island a reaction to Democratic politicians. Stamp believes Trump is set to continue winning. "I think it will go wonderful, because he has all the people – we the people are behind him," she said.
The Rhode Island GOP’s system of awarding delegates means that rival Republicans John Kasich and Ted Cruz will share in the winnings. Still, it’s clear that the big GOP winner of the night, in a state where Republicans have struggled for years, was Donald Trump.
This post has been updated.