PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – For the second week in a row, buzz is building that Republican frontrunner Donald Trump could soon make a campaign stop in the Ocean State.
State Rep. Joe Trillo, a Warwick Republican who is Trump’s honorary state chairman, said Monday the campaign’s staff is looking at holding a rally in the Ocean State ahead of the state’s April 26 primary. The Trump campaign considered a Rhode Island visit last week but opted against it.
“I’m hearing he’s supposed to come by the end of the week,” Trillo told WPRI.com. “We’re still in the running. I think once New York is over, he will start to reach out to the [five] other states.”
New York’s primary is Tuesday, and Rhode Island is one of five states that vote a week later, along with Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Another Republican candidate, John Kasich, has already announced plans to campaign in Rhode Island with a town hall event on Saturday. Supporters of the third GOP hopeful, Ted Cruz, have downplayed the possibility he will come.
At a rally in Warwick for Hillary Clinton last Thursday, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo mocked Trump’s decision not to visit last week. He was “afraid he might encounter some protestors,” she said. “Give me a break!”
Trillo said there are four or five Rhode Island locations being scouted by Trump’s staff. Last Friday the businessman held a well-attended rally at the convention center in Hartford.
“They do these things last-minute,” Trillo said. “They’ll make the plan two days before, and that’s the amount of time that they’ll have.”
Trump said he’s been stunned by the number of Rhode Islanders backing Trump and the intensity of their enthusiasm for his campaign. “I think there’s going to be a tremendous amount of support for him in Rhode Island,” he said.
“It’s a whole bunch of people who’ve been disgusted over the years, who haven’t voted, who are now energized by him and want to come out and support him,” he said.
Trillo, who previously served as Rhode Island’s Republican national committeeman, acknowledged the possibility that some GOP leaders may try to nominate a different candidate on the second ballot at this summer’s convention if Trump arrives without enough delegates to win an outright majority on the first vote.
“There are some very, very strong players on the national scene that I’ve dealt with over the years,” he said. “I’ve seen them wield tremendous power – tremendous power! So would they try? I think it’s a possibility.”
“Can they do it without fracturing the party? I don’t think they can,” he added.
Trillo also said the 19 GOP delegates at stake in Rhode Island have made the state somewhat less important to the campaigns because they will be divided proportionally among Trump, Cruz and Kasich as long as all three receive more than 10%. Some other states grant all their delegates to the primary winner.
“We matter, but we don’t matter an awful lot, because we’re a 19-delegate state and it’s not winner-take-all,” he said, adding: “I think we should seriously talk about some of the things that this state needs to do moving into the future to make it more relevant.”