GOP

GOP in Philly attendees sound off on Donald Trump: ‘Could be scary,’ but ‘it’s a free country’

Updated: 8 a.m.

The Donald has officially thrown his hat in the race for the White House, joining what’s effectively a laundry list of Republican candidates — but the guy can hardly find widespread support from his own party (and even had to *pay* people to come cheer for him).

Republican leaders are gathering this week at the Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia for the National Republican Leadership Conference, and those there will hear from presidential candidates like Rick Santorum and Gov. Scott Walker.

Former New York governor and current 2016 presidential candidate George Pataki at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Philadelphia, June 18, 2015.

Former New York governor and current 2016 presidential candidate George Pataki at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Philadelphia. Bobby Chen/Billy Penn

Today, former New York Gov. George Pataki, who announced his presidential campaign in May, addressed a group of about 200 people Thursday about the price of healthcare, the threat of ISIS and how Republicans need to take the Northeast in order to take the White House.

“The Republican presidential candidate carries Pennsylvania,” he said, “and we will have a Republican president of the United States.”

Trump announced Tuesday that he’d be launching his campaign, and drew fire from people across the country who criticized his style — he said Mexican immigrants are bringing “rapists” into the country and promised to erect a massive wall to keep ‘em out. He also said this about Healthcare.gov: “We have a five billion dollar website. I have so many websites… I hire people. They do a website. It costs me three dollars.”

The announcement led to The New York Daily News running a massive front page headline reading: “CLOWN RUNS FOR PREZ.”

Conference-goers fell on different sides of the spectrum when it comes to Trump’s presidential announcement this week, some saying he deserves to run because “it’s a free country,” and others saying his campaign is a self-serving “charade.”

Here’s what some of them had to say:

Rick Santorum, presidential candidate

rick santorum

Anna Orso/Billy Penn

Presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was asked Friday morning about his thoughts on Trump’s announcement that he’s running for president, saying the two have developed a friendship over the last several years.

Then he threw a bit of shade, saying: “I used to quip that everyone should run for president. Little did I know someone would actually take me up on that.”

Brandan McCammitt, 21, of Somerton in Philadelphia

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Bobby Chen/Billy Penn

An intern with the Philadelphia GOP, McCammitt said he came to the conference this week to see seminars about how the Republican Party can better reach millennials, and says he’s favoring supporting Marco Rubio for president — but that could change after the first few debates.

McCammitt called Trump’s running for president “a publicity stunt,” saying that he thinks The Donald is making a run in order to get on stage at events and get his face back in the national spotlight. But could people simply vote for Trump because he had a successful television show for more than a decade?

“Kim Kardashian has had a popular show for 10 years,” McCammitt said. “Doesn’t mean we should elect her president.”

Russell Taub, 26, of Providence, R.I.

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Bobby Chen/Billy Penn

Taub, a young campaign staffer in Rhode Island who’s worked for current past congressmen is now making his own run for U.S. Congress as a Republican in a largely Democratic area. He told Billy Penn that he’s attending the Northeast Republican Leadership conference “to meet donors” and because he “bought an ad.”

The young Republican said he’s met Trump on several occasions and was actually invited to his presidential announcement event in New York earlier this week, but said he wasn’t able to make it because he couldn’t travel in time.

Still, he said, he probably won’t be voting for him.

“He’s got no shot,” he said. “His buildings are in bankruptcy. He’s cool, but not cool enough that I would vote for him for president.”

Wade Andersson, 23, of West Chester

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Bobby Chen/Billy Penn

A recent University of Virginia grad and currently an engineer, Andersson said he came to the conference not to see a specific candidate, but to learn from workshops about using social media for grassroots efforts. He also added that while he’s not considering running for local office now, he hopes to in the future.

Andersson said he sees Trump’s campaign as a joke, saying that “it could be scary” because he could garner votes through pure name recognition. Meanwhile, Andersson said, he’d hijack debates and make a show out of what’s supposed to be serious dialogue about policy.

“He has billions to spend on self-promotion, and whether people vote for him or not will really depend on how long he carries out this charade,” he said. “I’m not sure he even takes himself seriously.”

Meghan Power, 27, West Mt. Airy in Philadelphia

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Bobby Chen/Billy Penn

Power, a law student at Widener, said she came to the conference to hear Pataki speak, and to attend workshops about fundraising and grassroots efforts to get candidates elected.

She wants to get involved in campaigning efforts with the GOP, but hasn’t yet chosen a presidential candidate to back because it’s a bit too early in the process.

But she did concede that Trump is “a very good businessman.”

“But I don’t know how I feel about him holding office,” she said. “It’s really an experience issue.”

Joe Samuel, a ward leader in the 24th ward of Philadelphia

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Bobby Chen/Billy Penn

Samuel, a politically-connected Republican in West Philadelphia, said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is among his top choices for president, saying “he’s not afraid of anything.”

Is he cool with Trump running? “It’s a free country.”

He said about Trump’s announcement: “It’s fair game for him to run and for candidates taking advantage of certain liberties in this country. There’s a possibility he could make a good candidate. He’s done a great job with his own business, and he says he can run the economy.”

Rosie Gaetano, of Scranton

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Bobby Chen/Billy Penn

This woman’s sweater caught pretty much everyone’s attention because of the kinda bedazzled elephants all over it. She was walking around the conference sporting a Rick Santorum button, saying she supports the former PA Senator because of his family values.

“He says you should do three things: graduate high school, get married and then have a family,” she said. “You don’t have babies first. There’s no structure in families anymore.”

But would she ever consider supporting Trump if Santorum wasn’t in the race?

“He’s a little too narcissistic for me.”

Unlike Gaetano, whoever posted up a sign at the conference apparently didn’t realize Santorum’s nice portrait was being covered up. Whoops.

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Bobby Chen/Billy Penn

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