While many Republican Party leaders throughout the country have been distancing themselves from Donald Trump, Cook County’s GOP leader remains solidly in the corner of his party’s presidential candidate.
“He’s a far superior choice than Hillary Clinton,” said Sean Morrison, chairman of the Cook County Republican Party. “I still believe he can win. It comes down to the 8 percent to 10 percent of the country that is independent and undecided and, from what people are telling me, I think when it comes time to vote they will be voting for Donald Trump. They’re just not telling the pollsters how they are going to vote, which is why Clinton is ahead right now in so many polls.”
As for Trump’s comments to “Access Hollywood” 11 years ago about groping women, Morrison admitted listening to those words “made me cringe.”
But many of Trump’s comments deemed offensive by Democrats, establishment Republicans and the mainstream media may actually be helping Trump with the general public, Morrison said.
“He offends Democrats and Republicans and I think that’s why he appeals to real people,” Morrison said. “He’s a billionaire with blue collar appeal. What I hear from people is that they are fed up with the politicians who have been running things in Washington. They’re looking for someone who is different. They want change.
“I’m only 49 years old, but I’ve never seen anything like Trump’s campaign and I don’t think anyone else has. I don’t think anyone can honestly predict what sort of president he’s going to be because there has never been anyone like him. And that’s what people like.
“Every time he says something that makes people in power shake their heads, he seems to be reinforcing the notion that he’s different than the traditional candidate.
“Trump received a record number of votes out here in the southwest suburbs during the primary,” said Morrison, who is the GOP committeeman of Palos Township and also serves as Cook County commissioner of the 17th District.
“Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in the suburbs out here. He was saying things that were ideologically very different than Trump, but they were both expressing dissatisfaction with the establishment and people in the suburbs voted overwhelmingly for both of them.
“That’s why I think more people who voted for Sanders will ultimately vote for Trump than will vote for Clinton. Clinton is a traditional politician. Trump is not.”
Morrison, the owner of a private security firm, was an early and enthusiastic backer of Bruce Rauner’s campaign for governor two years ago. He’s seen the benefits of having someone at the top of the ticket who can self-finance his campaign and is not influenced by traditional Republican power brokers or, for that matter, public opinion.
Whether that has been good or bad for Illinois may be in the eyes of the beholder, but there’s little doubt that the Republican Party in this state has received a new energy, typified by Morrison’s rise to power.
But will the Republican Party survive Trump’s candidacy?
“That’s an interesting question and one that was brought up repeatedly at a recent party event,” Morrison said. “I don’t think anyone knows how this is going to shake out. I think it’s going to take at least a year to determine if there are any long term consequences.
“I’m excited about the election and I think a lot of people who weren’t interested in politics, who haven’t voted for years, are excited,” Morrison said. “This is a campaign of historic significance, no matter what the result. It’s going to be something we tell our grandchildren about.”
The Cook County GOP chairman is backing his party’s presidential nominee. In a typical election year, that wouldn’t be news. But U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., seeking re-election, has refused to back Trump.
There’s nothing typical about this election.
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