York GOP ready to back Trump, Dems stand against

Greg Gross
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump speaks during his rally at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg Thursday. Amanda J. Cain photo

With the controversial and divisive Donald Trump the presumptive Republican nominee for president, the party must rally around him if they want to win the White House in November, a local party official said.

"I do think that the party is going to unite," said Alex Shorb, head of the York County GOP, adding the Democrats may end up being the party scrambling to rally voters around their candidate.

That means getting GOP voters once wary or outright opposed to the billionaire businessman on board the Trump train.

As Republicans work to bring their party together to support Trump, Democrats are working just as hard to make sure he doesn't get into the Oval Office.

"By even having Donald Trump on the ballot in November, the GOP is setting the country up for more vitriol, hatred and is positioning the nation in a direction which moves any progress we have made back decades," Chad Baker, head of York's Democrats, wrote in an email, noting the great strides forward made when Barack Obama was elected the first African-American president in 2008.

Season over: The prolonged and hectic GOP primary season came to a sudden close Wednesday when Ohio Gov. John Kasich followed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's lead and bowed out of the race. Cruz ended his campaign Tuesday after Trump posted an impressive victory in Indiana.

Some Republican leaders began reluctantly rallying around Trump, but others agonized over their party's future.

In a remarkable move, the last two Republicans to occupy the Oval Office — President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush — made clear they would not be helping Trump win the White House.

A spokesman for George W. Bush said the former president "does not plan to participate in or comment on the presidential campaign." And a spokesman for Bush's father said simply, "At age 91, President Bush is retired from politics."

Still, several GOP governors and senators said they would support Trump, according to a survey by The Associated Press.

Alex Shorb

Locally: Winning over a majority of York County Republicans appears to be an easy task for Trump.

He scored a sweeping statewide victory in last month's Pennsylvania GOP primary and won over nearly 59 percent of Republican voters in York County, according to unofficial results.

To boot, the three delegates-elect from the 4th Congressional District, which includes York County, ran on the platform that they'd vote for him at the party's July convention no matter what.

"I do think it's going to bode very well," Shorb said of the primary results.

The Democratic primary may also end up helping the GOP pick up supporters ahead of the fall election. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has shifted the Democratic platform, as well as former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, further to the left, Shorb said.

"Once the Republicans see how left she goes, I think it will be easy to rally around Donald Trump," he said.

A first-time candidate, Trump eschewed traditional fundraising and relied more on his own star power than television advertising to draw attention. He flouted political decorum with controversial statements about women and minorities.

Shorb said he believes the rise of Trump is the sign of a new Republican Party emerging, one that connects more with the working classes.

"It's his (Trump's) party between now and November, but I don't think it's going to be his party after November," said Peter Wehner, a former adviser to President George W. Bush. Wehner is among the Republicans vowing to never vote for Trump, even if that means essentially handing Clinton the presidency.

Chad Baker is chairman of the Democratic Party of York County.

Democrats: The Democrats may be facing their own challenge in uniting their party depending on how the primary shakes out.

Some Sanders supporters may not jump on board a Clinton nomination. Clinton is projected to get the Democrats' nod for president, and some in the political arena have already dubbed her the presumptive nominee.

Sanders intends to remain in the race and told The York Dispatch last month that he believes he's the best candidate to beat Trump in November. Clinton barely won York County, receiving nearly 50 percent of the vote compared to Sanders' 47 percent.

"When all is said and done, there will always be a sense of loyalty for the candidate you backed," Baker said. "In the event their candidate is not the one on the ballot in November, supporters will brood for a period of time but ultimately realize the alternative, meaning the opposition candidate, is much worse."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ggrossyd.