2016 primary coverage
GOP candidate list slowly diminishes
The Louisiana Republican primary is only a month away, but political science professors at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are saying anything can happen before then and it is still unclear who will win on March 5.
Meanwhile, UL Lafayette students offered a variety of viewpoints on their preferred GOP candidates.
Slidell native Mary Cormaci, 21, a junior public relations major and president of UL College Republicans, said although she’s still comparing the candidates to decide who to vote for, she is sure she will not be voting for Trump.
“He’s kind of distracting from the other candidates who could do a lot of good, and he’s distracting on the issues that we still need to discuss — like immigration,” said Cormaci. “He’s bringing a lot of negative attention to the Republican Party. I know some people like his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, but realistically I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about.”
Another Republican student, Phillip Domingue, 20, a junior marketing major from Lafayette, said he doesn’t understand why — or how — Trump is currently leading in national polls.
“I agree with Trump on his ideas for taxes and he is the smartest (candidate) in regards to business, but you don’t want him for president,” said Domingue. “He’s also very arrogant. I like a person who is humble.”
Darcy Lafont, a Republican freshman mechanical engineering major from Cutoff, contended although Trump would probably make a “horrible president,” his bold approach is exactly what the country needs.
“Things have to get worse before it gets better,” said Lafont. “Once he gets started and settled in his presidency, I believe the country will be better than it has ever been. Whether he knows about politics or not, Trump is a strong leader and a strong leader is exactly what our country needs.”
Jared Guilbeau, 29, a mathematics graduate student from Carencro, also had this conditional endorsement of Trump:
“If it comes down to Hillary versus Trump, I’ll vote for Trump but I won’t like it,” said Guilbeau. “I think one advantage of Trump becoming president is that he’s so extreme that Congress might actually work together and do their job and rein in the ever-growing power of the executive branch that we’ve seen over the past 30 years.”
“From a demographic standpoint, Trump supporters seem to be people who are in challenging economic circumstances who don’t have a college degree,” said Pearson Cross, Ph.D., a political science professor and interim associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UL Lafayette.
“The people who say they’re willing to say they support Trump publicly are different from the people who would say they support Trump over the phone to somebody,” added Ryan Teten, Ph.D., chair of the political science department at UL Lafayette.
Breaking that demographic stereotype is Collin Burgess, a sophomore political science student, who said he is “all with Trump.”
“He doesn’t care what people think, and that’s what we need,” said the 19-year-old New Orleans native. “I don’t care if I offend somebody when it comes to promoting national security. Also, he can’t be bought by lobbyists because he’s self-funded, so he’s true to his own beliefs and not other people’s.”
Cormaci and Domingue said they were considering voting for either Texas’ U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz or Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, but neither student preferred one candidate over the other at this point.
“Of the people in the lead among the Republican choices, Cruz is probably the best of the choices,” said Reagan Hoehl, 29, a senior geology major from Lafayette. “But, you know, the Republican Party loves throwing the worst they can at us. They’ll do whatever they can to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”
Another student is still a supporter of a former holder of the No. 2 spot, Dr. Ben Carson.
“I like his stance where he fights against removing ‘In God We Trust’ from the money and ‘Under God’ from the pledge of allegiance,” said Rhiannon Ray, a freshman nursing student from Lafayette. “I like his stance on Israel, especially the fact that he thinks we’ve abandoned them, which I also feel, and I like his ideas for shrinking the size of the government. I like the fact that he’s not a politician.”
Of Trump, Ray simply said, “He’s too divisive.”
Joshua Franszczak, a sophomore English major from Slidell, said not one Republican candidate stands out as a fit presidential choice.
”I just don’t believe that anyone truly captures what the American people genuinely want,” said Franszczak. “Personally, if I had to choose, I’d say Rubio simply because he’s a little more moderate than Trump or Cruz. The sort of prejudice towards his age, being much younger than the other candidates, is a reality. However, I believe that John F. Kennedy splattered that. If a young president could be elected once, than I believe that it can happen again. It’s not just an old white man’s game anymore.”
Teten and Cross cautiously avoided predicting if Trump would win the Louisiana primary, but said Cruz and Rubio should square off almost equally in Louisiana. Although Rubio is a first-term senator, he is young and attracts younger and Hispanic voters, Teten noted, adding that although Cruz is known for his intelligence and attracts older voters, he has enemies within the Republican Party for being “showy.”
“Democrats are just chomping at the bit for Ted Cruz to get the nomination,” said Cross.
Political science professor Bryan-Paul Frost, Ph.D., adviser of College Republicans, disagreed with Teten and Cross that Cruz and Rubio were similar and predicted that if Trump stumbles, Cruz may move up.
“I think Cruz is courting the same supporters as Trump, but I’m not sure Rubio is,” said Frost. “Rubio has a much more moderate, and therefore more thoughtful, stance on immigration.”
All three professors agreed that Hispanic voters were going to be a powerful minority this election. Hispanics share many of the same values as Republicans, such as anti-abortion rights, Christianity, family and work ethics, according to Cross. He also said it may have been Hispanic swing votes that almost cost Mitt Romney North Carolina in the 2012 election.
“And that’s why the Republican Party is so terrified that Trump has done permanent damage to the relationship with Latino voters and those who may be immigrants,” said Teten, “because it will be a bloc of 13 million new voters. If they all come in Democrat, a Republican will never win another election ever again.”
“Cruz and Trump have simply alienated the entire Hispanic vote with their views on immigration,” agreed Frost. “If it’s Trump versus Hillary, Dr. Frost will start an organization in Louisiana called ‘Republicans for Hillary.’ Now, I do not enjoy her candidacy, but (between) the demagogic Trump versus Hillary, I’d take Hillary any day. This election is deadly serious.”
Teten, however, said he does not believe Trump will win the nomination, but if he does, then he has a Christmas wish for the general election this fall.
“For a political scientist, I’m hoping it will be Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump because that would be like every day would be Christmas,” Teten said.
Teten noted, however, that it is too early to predict who will win in November, and that it would take only one terrorist attack on U.S. soil to cause the country to swing heavily Republican.
Dan Boudreaux contributed to this report.