The presidential campaign of Republican Donald J. Trump rolls into Hartford on Friday, an effort to solidify a lead that makes him the favorite to win the 25 delegates at stake in the Connecticut primary on April 26.
Soon after a city official acknowledged Wednesday that Trump had reserved the Connecticut Convention Center and notified police of plans for a rally, the campaign added Hartford to a schedule of public events that will take Trump from Pittsburgh on Wednesday to New York City on Thursday to Hartford on Friday.
Doors open at 4 p.m. at the convention center, with a rally to begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are available through the Trump campaign web site.
Keeping his distance from the GOP establishment, Trump has followed a unique path to becoming the front runner in a three-man field with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. His campaign did not notify the state GOP of the event, said J.R. Romano, the state chairman.
“I’m not surprised,” Romano said of Trump’s decision to campaign here. “Connecticut is in play for all the candidates. We’re a proportional state. That makes us fertile ground for every campaign.”
To win 25 of the state’s 28 delegates, Trump would have to top the field in all five congressional districts and also be the overall winner. An Emerson College poll released Tuesday found Trump with a solid lead in every congressional district in Connecticut.
Under GOP rules, three delegates will be awarded to the winner of each congressional district, and 10 delegates will go to the statewide winner.
The remaining three delegates are superdelegates not bound by the results. They are Romano and the state’s two members of the Republican National Committee, Patricia Longo and John Frey. Longo told the Republican State Central Committee on Tuesday she will not seek re-election to the RNC in May, but her term runs through the end of the year.
Emerson’s poll found that 50 percent of likely Republican voters in Connecticut say they favor Trump. Kasich, who held a town hall forum in Connecticut last week, polled at 26 percent and Cruz at 17 percent. Trump is the only GOP candidate with a chance of going into the party convention with the 1,237 delegates to win the nomination.
A central element of Kasich’s pitch at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield was electability. He quoted polls showing him as having the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner.
“Nobody beats Hillary but me,” Kasich said.
Trump’s status as a lightning rod was evident in how quickly the Connecticut Democratic Party issued a fundraising appeal Wednesday centered on his plans for a rally.
The Emerson poll showed Clinton with a narrow lead over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, 49 percent to 43 percent, with 6 percent undecided. The closeness has prompted both campaigns to begin an advertising campaign on Connecticut television.
The New York primary is next week, then attention turns to five eastern states holding primaries on April 26: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The GOP contests are winner-take-all in all but Connecticut and Rhode Island.