- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2016

Businessman Donald Trump could be walking into hostile territory this week when he appears at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, where grassroots activists say they don’t see the New York billionaire as part of their flock and say the idea of supporting him stinks.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to appear at CPAC on Saturday and is looking to build upon the momentum he is carrying out of Super Tuesday in the face of mounting push-back against his candidacy from various wings he Republican party — including 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney and CPAC attendees.

“He is a clown,” said Brian Merritt of Tennessee. “I don’t have anything against him whatsoever, he is just not right for a conservative Republican party.”

Asked whether he considered Mr. Trump as conservative, Mr. Merritt, who supports Mr. Cruz, did not miss a beat.

“No,” the 58-year-old said.

Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, who are vying to become the strongest alternative to Mr. Trump, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich also are slated to speak here. Ben Carson is also scheduled to attend — though the retired neurosurgeon has said he no longer sees a path to the nomination.

Heather Knopp of Virginia said she has been a “Cruz fan” since the Texas Republican led a 21-hour plus “filibuster” against Obamacare in 2013 and said she won’t support Mr. Trump if he is the nominee.

“I will never vote for that man,” Ms. Knopp said, adding she would write-in Mr. Cruz’s name on the ballot.

“I am not the only one. I know lots and lots of people that are doing the same thing,” the 49-year-old said. “I want to sleep at night.”

Tim Finn said he is leaning toward Mr. Rubio and said he would “have to hold his nose” to cast his support behind Mr. Trump if the fellow New Yorker wins the race.

“He is going to have to tone it down,” Mr. Finn, 56, said.

Ann Eubank of Alabama, meanwhile, suggested Mr. Trump’s backers should rethink their support.

“I think that there is a section of our population who are so angry that they’ve lost their common sense, and are supporting a candidate that they really don’t know what he is going to do,” Mr. Eubank, 76, said.

Some, though, embraced Mr. Trump.

“I happen to like Donald Trump,” said Wayne Mazza, of Pennsylvania. “I like the fact that he is rattling the cage because I think what it has done is show the corruption in our party.”

Mr. Mazza said, at the moment, that Mr. Trump is his first choice, and Mr. Cruz is his second.

“I just want someone who loves our country and that will do the best to protect this country,” he said. “I think Donald Trump will do that, and I think Ted Cruz will do that as well.”

Mr. Trump expanded his lead in the GOP presidential race on Super Tuesday by grabbing the top spot in seven states, including Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama — sending a shiver down the spine of establishment and conservative Republicans leaders, who are worried time is running out to stop him from securing the nomination, and hope to blow a hole in his image before winner-take-all contests in Ohio and Florida on March 15.

Michael Thomsett of Tennessee, though, said he still thinks Mr. Trump can be stopped.

“I don’t like Trump as a person or as a candidate,” Mr. Thomsett said. I think it’s amateur night, and I think he says that he is going to do a lot of things, but he doesn’t have any actual plans, so I am not sure what sort of president he would be.”

The 67-year-old added, “I kind of suspect he is a liberal.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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