The Day readers divided on Trump’s decision to run again

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With Donald Trump announcing he will run for president a third time in 2024, The Day asked Republican and conservative-leaning readers whether they’d vote for him.

The responses ranged from “absolutely not,” to “probably,” to “absolutely.”

We asked: “Would you support another Trump term? Why or why not? Are there other Republican presidential hopefuls you would rather support?”

Trump proved a controversial topic for Republicans we spoke with by phone or email. Many said they lost faith in him in recent years after originally supporting him.

About half of the respondents said they are opposed to a Trump reelection, and pointed to the Jan. 6, 2020 insurrection attempt by supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn Trump’s loss.

Florida Governor Ron Desantis’s name came up frequently when asked who they would support instead. So did the names of prominent Republicans Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, Chris Sununu, Mike Pence and Glenn Youngkin.

Marshall Collins, a Salem Republican who refers to himself as a “New England Republican,” said he “absolutely will not support” Trump if he wins the GOP nomination. He said Trump appeals to a portion of the electorate but not “the moderate center.”

Dividing the party

Collins worries that a Trump election would not be issues-driven, and would make it easier on the Democratic candidate to win.

“We’re not going to talk about the economy. We’re not going to talk about immigration. We’re not going to talk about foreign policy. All we’re going to talk about is how Donald Trump is personally reprehensible,” Collins said. “All the stupid things he says and does will be thrown back at him.”

Collins said it’s possible Trump would split the Republican Party if he is nominated.

“I get the feeling that he would run even if he was a third-party candidate, just so that he could beat the hell out of a Republican,” Collins said. “Donald Trump doesn’t care if he elects somebody as ineffective as Joe Biden again.”

Of the potential Republican candidates, Collins said he likes Haley, the former South Carolina governor, in particular, but wants to see how all the candidates campaign before he throws his support behind one.

Asked whether he would vote for Trump if he’s the Republican nominee, Collins said, “About 95% no.”

“I can’t think of a Democrat they would nominate who would make me vote for him. They could prove me wrong. You could get AOC (U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) or somebody like that. I don’t know what I would do then,” Collins said. “This last election I was faced with that situation between (Democratic U.S. Senator Richard) Dick Blumenthal and (Trump-endorsed Republican) candidate Leora Levy, both of whom I dislike … I couldn’t vote for either one of them, so I wrote (Republican State Senator) Paul Formica’s name in there.”

Disillusioned by January 6

Waterford Republican Jo-Ann Arcara Craddoc said she has gradually come to oppose Trump because of Jan. 6, “and just acting like a child after the election.”

“He really showed some true colors, that he’s immature, and he wanted the presidency no matter what,” Craddoc said. “Would he do it again? Who knows. As of now, I’d rather see Ron Desantis.”

Craddoc thinks it more likely that DeSantis would accept election results.

“If DeSantis wins out and Trump doesn’t get the nomination, Trump may make a third party, because again, he’s immature,” Craddoc said. “That would divide the Republican Party. If he does that, Democrats may win again, and God forbid Biden runs again.”

Craddoc said she would vote for Trump if the election is between him and Biden, but, “I’d rather have DeSantis up there…I don’t want to see the country as it is now. It seems like it’s all divided.”

Ed Fialkosky, a Mystic Republican, was a longtime Democrat but recently changed parties, in part because, “It pains me when I’m constantly referred to as one of the old white guys who are causing all the trouble.”

Fialkosky said he would pick DeSantis over Trump in a primary, but that if Trump wins the primary, he’d vote for him in the general election. He’s choosing the Republican over any Democrat, he said.

“I understand Trump prevaricates, they all do, he stretches the truth, they all do,” Fialkosky said. “Don’t forget he’s fighting big tech, he’s fighting the FBI, the Justice Department, the Democratic Party and most of the papers here in America…They’re trying to destroy the man. I’ll vote for him because he will produce the success this country needs, and I’ll put up with his (expletive).”

When prompted, Fialkosky expressed interest in Mike Pompeo, the former U.S. Secretary of State, as a presidential candidate.

Other readers said they supported many of Trump’s policies, but were disillusioned by Trump’s refusal to concede the election.

“When the nation recognized his failures and voted him out of office, I believe his hubris took control and he took extraordinary steps to thwart the will of the people and reject our constitution’s objectives,” Old Lyme Republican Christopher Mullaney said. “For these reasons and more, I will not support any Republican who espouses support for a Trump candidacy. Nor anyone he might recommend.”

Mullaney has been opposed to Trump since he ran in 2016, and has voted Libertarian as a result.

Mullaney said Trump “is just not my idea of a responsible Republican. I think Republicans originally were fiscal conservatives; somehow that has migrated into religious conservatism.”

“I recognized him for what he is, he’s a manipulator, and he made his fortune on other people’s fortunes,” Mullaney continued. “He bankrupted himself a number of times with other people’s money. I recognized that then, which is why I voted Libertarian when he was first nominated.”

Mullaney also took exception to DeSantis, comparing him to Trump. He said New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu appeals to him.

Bill Donovan of Westerly, who says he is more a Republican than a Democrat in his political thinking, said he is “an absolute Trump hater.” He said he abhorred Trump’s attempts to control the press and would support DeSantis, “If I can get comfortable with the fact that he’s a not-smart Donald Trump.”

Donovan said he would vote Democrat in protest if Trump is the GOP nominee.

No blossoming “bromance”

James Bush, an unaffiliated voter from Waterford who leans Libertarian, said he thinks Trump is making a mistake in running again.

“Trump has proven himself to be incredibly divisive…It’s unfortunate, really, because I actually agreed with much of his politics, and I appreciate the spirit of the ‘Make America Great Again’ catch-phrase, but his brand has lost the novelty that was a driving force behind his success in 2016,” Bush said. “There are simply too many people that hate Trump, and that’s never a good quality for a statesman. Hillary (Clinton) learned that lesson the hard way.”

Bush said he wishes Trump instead “set his ego aside and threw his weight behind Ron Desantis.”

“Had he done so, the party would have been united under a rising star whose conservative ideas have proven successful in the state of Florida,” Bush said. “I had been hoping to see a blossoming ‘bromance’ develop between the two, but, alas, it was not to be. Instead Trump will spend the next two years tearing him to shreds…That doesn’t bode well for 2024.”

Lynn Young of Stonington, who is an unaffiliated voter, said she is fiscally conservative and socially liberal. She supported Trump in his first run because she “couldn’t stand the thought of ‘it’s-my-turn’ Hillary Clinton as President.”

Young said she thought Trump would rise to the level of the office.

“He did not, and in the process revealed his considerable personality disorders,” she said.

Young said she likes Trump’s policy instincts. She didn’t mention other candidates she supports, blaming Trump’s news dominance in saying she doesn’t know what his likely competition stands for.

“I pity the eventual nominee, because it won’t be Trump, and he will seek to destroy whoever it is by whatever means necessary with no regard for the fallout beyond satisfying his need for revenge,” Young said.

Montville Republican Stephen Linicus said he would support Trump, primarily because he isn’t satisfied with Biden’s immigration and public safety policies.

“Many people hate Trump. I know he’s not perfect, but he’s far better than Biden, who is just out there and his mind is gone,” Linicus said. “I know at times Trump is outspoken…and his mouth gets him into trouble. But Biden is a lost cause.”

Paul Nunes, an Independent from Norwich, said he would still support Trump, but he believes the former president’s “steam…is running out.”

“The man doesn’t seem to want to learn, meaning he can’t see he is his worst enemy,” Nunes said. “Would I support another Republican? I may have to, as I’m sure Trump will shoot himself in the foot in the next 23 months…If he could just control that ego, we would have a tremendous leader.”

Ted Genard, a Montville Republican, supported Trump’s positions on labor, the economy, energy, immigration and foreign policy. He believes Trump was “unfairly attacked” for colluding with Russia.

“However, the guy does not know when to stop talking, and is his own worst enemy,” Genard said. “He now carries too much baggage to be effective. The political climate will be all about him and not national policy. That’s distracting and counter-productive.”

Denard said he likes DeSantis, Haley, and Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott as alternatives.

s.spinella@theday.com