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'Yankee Republicans' Represent At The Convention

John Locher
Massachusetts delegates Patricia Saint Aubin and Amy Carnevale dance during the second day session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Tuesday.

Donald Trump takes the stage on Thursday night in Cleveland to formally accept the Republican Party’s nomination for president. Scattered across the convention hall floor, delegates from around New England will cheer in support of a candidate who’s run largely on an anti-establishment platform.

Many of these same New England delegates at the GOP convention fit the description of political moderates, long known as “Yankee Republicans.”

But some of the highest ranking officials who fit the description are staying away from the convention – while their constituents rally behind Trump.

First of all, let’s explain who fits the traditional mold of a Yankee Republican:

“I’m a Yankee Republican. I’m strong with financial issues. I don’t need the government worrying what’s going on inside my house. That’s not what their job is.”

Bill Lawrence of Underhill, Vermont, says he wasn’t surprised that Trump handily won each of the New England states in the primary.

Lawrence says his fellow moderate Republicans are practical, and simply want to see someone in the White House who can get things done.

“If you look at government today, it is big business. And what’s Donald Trump? He’s a businessman.”

John Sivolella of the Boston-based Pioneer Institute is a political scientist and a Massachusetts delegate. Sivolella says Trump’s business background has been enough to sway many voters, bringing Independents, Republicans and even some Democrats into play.

“A lot of the people who are voting for Trump are not necessarily socially conservative people and they’re kind of a meld between almost a more practical side and really the populist side.”

As a national committeewoman from Keene, New Hampshire, Juliana Bergeron says she’s been acutely aware of that populist sentiment.

And while Bergeron acknowledges that Trump is not without his flaws, she says after a long primary season, she’s trusting in the voters and supporting the party’s ticket.

“You know, there were times when I was happy with 17 candidates because I thought we would have a president, a vice president and we could fill all the cabinet seats and there were other times I felt that to get the best candidate, we’d have to put them all in a blender. So, I remained neutral throughout but I easily came over to Trump because if that’s what the people of New Hampshire want, and the people of the country, I think we have to trust that.”

With Republicans like Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte sitting out the convention – and Maine Senator Susan Collins still noncommittal – the New England Republicans here in Cleveland are tasked with whipping themselves into a frenzy.

Doreen Costa, for one, has no problem with that:

“This is my second convention and this is no comparison to the Romney convention this is so upbeat, everybody’s so positive, it’s just a lot of fun.”

Costa – a Rhode Island state representative – says she chalks up this year’s energy to a newfound optimism.

“It’s a different crowd, it’s a different feeling. People are more pumped. I think people see that this is possible. We thought it was with Mitt, but not quite sure. I mean you’ve got Trump taking 65 percent in Rhode Island, the bluest of blue states. It’s amazing.”

That 65 percent, of course, refers to Trump’s enormous victory in the Rhode Island primary.

Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown amazed much of the country back in 2010, when he turned a longtime Democratic Senate seat red, replacing Ted Kennedy in a special election.

A one-time possible vice president contender, Brown is here in Cleveland as a Fox News contributor and says he’s focused on moving the party forward.

“It’s about the party, it’s about unifying the party, taking back the White House, keeping the Senate, expand the numbers or keeping the house and having an opportunity to change the agenda.”

Asked about the lack of unified support from his fellow big-name New England Republicans, Brown says they’re just doing what they feel is right.

“Maybe Kelly and Charlie and Susan, by saying what they’re doing is still that Yankee independence that we all know and love. That’s what makes us New Englanders. So, I think that spirit is still alive, but I just think it’s maybe not traditional as it was in years past.

And it’s safe to say that for most of the New England delegates here in Cleveland, doing what they feel is right is part of being a 'Yankee Republican.'

This report comes from the New England News Collaborative, eight public media companies coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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