Trump In Vermont: 'I Would Love To Run Against Bernie'

Jan 8, 2016
Originally published on January 8, 2016 2:21 pm

A three-ring political circus arrived in Burlington, Vt., Thursday when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump held a campaign rally in one of the most liberal cities in the country.

In the past two presidential elections, two-thirds of Vermont's voters chose Barack Obama over Republican candidates, so why did Trump even bother to campaign in Vermont?

One reason may be that Vermont is one of 12 states holding primaries and caucuses on March 1, also known as Super Tuesday. So far, Republican presidential candidates have barely campaigned for the state's 16 delegates to the Republican National Convention.

Much to the dismay of city officials and the police, the Trump campaign handed out 20,000 tickets for the rally at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, seating capacity: 1,400.

Supporters lined up hours ahead of time to get in.

"I think he's a very intelligent guy, and running a country is like running a business. And he knows how to run a business," said Jim Billado, who owns a commercial roofing business.

Clad in work boots, jeans, flannel shirt and a well-worn green John Deere cap as he waited for Trump to speak, Billado bemoaned Vermont's liberal tilt: "They're taxing us right out of this state. It's crazy."

In a snow-covered park near the Flynn Center, hundreds of anti-Trump protesters camped out, waving signs and chanting slogans.

"Here's a man who represents a rising, racist and fascist movement across the country. And it's the responsibility, in my opinion, of citizens to rise up and meet that challenge," said Albert Petrarca.

To weed out protesters, the Trump campaign asked everyone entering the theater to pledge support to the billionaire TV star and businessman.

Katina Cummings said she was prevented from entering the Flynn when she said she didn't support Trump.

"I said, 'I'm not leaving,' and they guided me and sort of pushed me out," Cummings said. "And I said, 'This is a private event, I am not leaving.' They said, 'Well, you'll be arrested.'"

Inside, the scene was often rowdy, with the crowd cheering wildly when Trump repeated his vow to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

Trump's speech took place at the exact same time President Obama was discussing his recent executive orders on gun control in a televised town hall meeting, and Trump made it clear he'd reverse those orders, and then some, if elected president.

"I will get rid of gun-free zones in schools — you have to — and on military bases," Trump said. "My first day, it gets signed, OK? My first day. There's no more gun-free zones."

Despite the campaign's best efforts, dozens of protesters made it past security. Each time, Trump took pleasure in instructing the local police to usher them out.

"Yeah, don't give him his coat. Don't give him his coat. Keep his coat. Confiscate his coat. You know, it's about 10 degrees below zero outside," Trump said.

Throughout the speech, Trump took shots at pretty much every other politician of note — including other Republican presidential candidates, Obama and Hillary Clinton. But he particularly relished taunting Burlington resident and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

"Oh, would I love to run against Bernie. I would love it. That would be a dream come true," Trump said.

"Donald Trump and I finally agree on something," said Sanders in a statement issued by his campaign. "He wants to run against me. I want to run against him. It would be an extraordinary campaign, and I am confident I would win."

Copyright 2016 Vermont Public Radio. To see more, visit Vermont Public Radio.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Burlington, Vt., is Bernie Sanders' home. He was mayor there. But another presidential candidate came through town last night, and things got pretty raucous. It was Donald Trump. Vermont Public Radio's Peter Hirschfeld was there.

PETER HIRSCHFELD, BYLINE: It was a political three-ring circus that came to town last night. The Trump campaign handed out 20,000 tickets for an event space that had just 1,400 seats. Supporters lined up hours ahead of time to get in.

JIM BILLADO: I think he's a very intelligent guy. And running a country's like running a business, and he knows how to run a business.

HIRSCHFELD: Jim Billado owns a commercial roofing business and was wearing work boots, jeans, a flannel shirt and a well-worn green John Deere cap as he waited for Trump to speak.

BILLADO: This state, they're taxing us right out of this state. It's crazy, you know?

HIRSCHFELD: But why did Trump even stop in deep-blue Vermont? One reason may be that voters here will send 16 delegates to the Republican National Convention in the Super Tuesday primaries on March 1. And it's a state that other Republican candidates have barely paid attention to.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go.

HIRSCHFELD: In a snow-covered park not far from where Billado was standing, local Albert Petrarca held anti-Trump signs in his hands.

ALBERT PETRARCA: Here's a man who represents a rising racist and fascist movement across the country. And it's the responsibility, in my opinion, of citizens to rise up and meet that challenge.

HIRSCHFELD: To weed out protesters, the Trump campaign asked everyone entering the theater to pledge support to the billionaire TV star and businessman.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. Thank you.

HIRSCHFELD: Inside, the scene was rowdy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Beautiful. We're in Vermont. That air is so nice and clean. I'm breathing so much of that air.

HIRSCHFELD: While Vermont may be 2,000 miles from Mexico, the crowd went wild when Trump repeated his vow to build a wall on the southern border.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: And who's going to pay for the wall?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Mexico.

TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Mexico.

TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Mexico.

TRUMP: I've never done that before. That's actually cute.

HIRSCHFELD: Despite the campaign's best efforts, dozens of protesters made it past security. Each time, Trump took pleasure in instructing the local police to usher them out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Yeah, don't give him his coat. Don't give him his coat. Keep his coat. Confiscate his coat. You know, it's about 10 degrees below zero outside.

HIRSCHFELD: Throughout the speech, Trump took shots at pretty much every other politician of note, including other Republican candidates, President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Burlington resident Bernie Sanders.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Oh, would I love to run against Bernie. I would love - that would be a dream come true.

HIRSCHFELD: In a statement afterwards, Sanders said he and Trump finally agree on something - they should run against each other. Sanders said it would be an extraordinary campaign if the two of them square off in the general election. For NPR News, I'm Peter Hirschfeld in Burlington, Vt. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.