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As Iowans head to caucus Monday for the first primary of the election cycle, some Harvard College Republicans are apprehensive about the prospect of Republican front-runner and businessman Donald J. Trump leading their party.
Should Trump win the Republican nomination, the Harvard Republican Club is unsure whether they would endorse him, according to Gwen R. Thomas ’17, HRC president.
As of Sunday evening, the latest Iowa poll from the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics put Trump five points ahead of his nearest competitor in the Republican field, Ted Cruz. Nationally, Trump’s lead is arguably stronger, with a recent Bloomberg poll indicating that Trump leads the Republicans with 34 percent support compared to second place finisher Marco Rubio’s 14 percent.
Trump’s divisive campaign poses a difficult challenge for Republicans struggling to find a voice on Harvard’s undoubtedly liberal campus. As the Harvard Republican Club tries to appeal to a diverse group of students who adhere to an array of conservative ideologies, Trump’s rhetoric alienates other conservatives, some say.
“Generally, the Republicans and conservatives at Harvard understand that if we truly want to appeal to the next generation, we can’t be an angry, anti-immigrant, anti-religious freedom movement,” said Kent K. Haeffner ’18, treasurer of the HRC and campus leader for Harvard students for Jeb Bush.
Four Harvard Republicans said Trump’s message, which they characterized as often racist and provocative, does not align with their mission.
Although the Harvard Republican Club does not typically endorse a candidate during the primaries, the organization conducted a straw poll at a general meeting in November. The informal poll indicated that 48 percent of the membership supported Marco Rubio, 48 percent Jeb Bush, and four percent percent Carly Fiorina, said Aaron I. Henricks ’16, former president of the HRC. The survey indicated no support for Trump.
Henricks, who claims to know most public conservatives on campus, doesn’t know of any Trump supporters at Harvard.
“I think I’ve heard rumors of one existing, maybe in the far reaches of the Quad, but I don’t think they’re serious,” Henricks said.
Other Harvard Republicans including Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18, a vice president of the HRC, also denied knowing a single Harvard student for Trump.
As the National Co-chair of Students for Rubio, Khansarinia added that he is “disappointed” in his party’s support of Trump, arguing that his rhetoric is “divisive.”
“It’s simply not what the conservative movement or what our country stands for,” Khansarinia said.
Harvard Republicans' distrust of Trump poses a dilemma for the HRC, which Thomas said has “gone all in” to support the nominee of their party in the past. If Trump wins the nomination, the club will have to vote whether or not to campaign for him, Thomas said.
Although the HRC is hopeful that Trump’s pre-election polls won’t equate to actual votes on election day, apprehension remains that their own party will nominate Trump.
“The bubble was supposed to burst a long time ago on Trump,” Thomas said.
—Staff writer Kabir K. Gandhi contributed reporting to this story.
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