With Clin­ton ties and past, Trump not en­tirely welcome to tea party

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Tea par­ty­ers are torn over Don­ald Trump, ap­plaud­ing the way he has shaken the Repub­li­can Party es­tab­lish­ment with his bom­bas­tic style and vows to evis­cer­ate the po­lit­i­cal class in Washington, but wary of his less-than-con­ser­va­tive stances in the past and his friendly ties with the Clin­tons.

The bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man’s me­te­oric rise to the top of the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial field, in­clud­ing among self-iden­ti­fied tea party sup­port­ers, has ob­scured some of those ques­tions, but lead­ers of the grass-roots move­ment say Mr. Trump’s past will get more scru­tiny in com­ing months.

“Tea par­ty­ers are now con­sid­er­ing him a se­ri­ous con­tender, and they are start­ing to ask more pres­i­den­tial ques­tions,” said Ken Crow, a tea party ac­tivist and Trump sup­porter in Iowa. Mr. Crow con­tends that the key for the Repub­li­can front-run­ner now is to es­tab­lish a level of trust with vot­ers who feel they have been burned re­peat­edly by politi­cians who promised but never de­liv­ered on lim­ited-gov­ern­ment prin­ci­ples.

“If he can win that trust, he will go all the way. If there are more ques­tions unan­swered than an­swered, then he has a prob­lem,” Mr. Crow said.

With a solid foothold as the party’s front-run­ner, Mr. Trump is in­creas­ingly fac­ing at­tacks from other can­di­dates — and none more so than for­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whom Mr. Trump bumped from the lead.

On Tues­day, Mr. Bush’s cam­paign re­leased a Web video show­ing what it called the “Real Don­ald Trump,” re­play­ing state­ments he made in the 1990s sup­port­ing a sin­gle-payer health care sys­tem for the U.S. and plau­dits to Pres­i­dent Obama’s stim­u­lus pack­age in 2009.

Mr. Trump is open about his pol­icy changes, say­ing he has “evolved on nu­mer­ous is­sues” in­clud­ing health care, abor­tion rights and a 14.25 per­cent tax on the rich that he once ar­gued could help solve the na­tion’s debt prob­lem.

A re­cent Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity poll showed that Mr. Trump is the top choice of tea par­ty­ers, pulling in 25 per­cent, com­pared with 21 per­cent for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and 8 per­cent for both Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and re­tired neu­ro­sur­geon Ben Car­son. Mr. Trump also is out­pac­ing his ri­vals among tea par­ty­ers in Iowa and New Hamp­shire, hosts of the open­ing nom­i­na­tion con­tests.

Those num­bers doesn’t sit well with some of the move­ment’s lead­ers, who say Mr. Trump is not one of them.

“Peo­ple are just so ig­no­rant, and I hate the idea that some peo­ple would sup­pos­edly think that he is a tea party sup­porter,” said Jane Aitken, a mem­ber of the New Hamp­shire Tea Party Coali­tion. “It is low-in­for­ma­tion vot­ers on the con­ser­va­tive side.”

Mr. Trump is mak­ing over­tures to tea party vot­ers, an­nounc­ing plans to join Mr. Cruz at a rally in Washington next week hosted by Tea Party Pa­tri­ots to ex­press op­po­si­tion to Mr. Obama’s nu­clear deal with Iran.

Tay­lor Bu­dowich, of Tea Party Ex­press, said vot­ers are in­ter­ested more in what Mr. Trump and the rest of the field have for so­lu­tions to the na­tion’s prob­lems.

“He has branded him­self as the epit­ome of the out­sider. That is one of his cen­tral themes, and it is cen­tral in cap­tur­ing that [voter] frus­tra­tion with the po­lit­i­cal class. But then you have to lay out your plan and plat­form and be se­ri­ous about it,” Mr. Bu­dowich said.

So far, Mr. Trump has re­leased a de­tailed immigration plan, and a pro­posal to over­haul the na­tion’s tax rates is due in com­ing weeks.

Asked whether Mr. Trump can win over tea par­ty­ers, Mr. Bu­dowich said any­thing is pos­si­ble at this point in the race.

“For in­stance, [Ron­ald] Rea­gan was a Demo­crat, and he was un­pop­u­lar for that, and then he be­came a Repub­li­can and then be­came a pretty con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can in sup­port­ing [Barry] Gold­wa­ter,” Mr. Bu­dowich said.

He added, how­ever, that Rea­gan’s trans­for­ma­tion hap­pened over decades while Mr. Trump will have a tougher time con­vinc­ing vot­ers that he has sud­denly be­come an au­then­tic con­ser­va­tive.

Don­ald Trump

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