Massachusetts Trump supporters cite border as key issue ahead of Super Tuesday vote

“They’re spending you taxpayer money to help these people who are breaking the law,” said Brian Latina, 66, of Chelmsford. “We need to follow the laws — the Constitution as written.”

Similarly, Tim Picanzo, of Dartmouth, said his main motivating priority as a voter is to “Secure the border again.”

Massachusetts is about a 2,000-mile trek to the closest part of the US border with Mexico, but Thomas Hodgson, a former Bristol County sheriff who’s chair of Trump’s Massachusetts campaign, said he believes the border-heavy message will resonate here.

“Massachusetts is a border state because people are pouring in here,” Hodgson said after the rally.

On Tuesday, voters in 15 states including Massachusetts will cast their ballots in the party primaries.

Four years ago, President Biden, who struggled early in the race, coalesced establishment support ahead of Super Tuesday and, made a strong showing in Massachusetts that included defeating Senator Elizabeth Warren in her home state.

This year, Biden is on a glide path to the Democratic nomination, and Trump has all but cleared the field on the Republican side. Trump is looking to further distance himself from United Nations ambassador and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, his last obstacle for the party’s nomination. Haley rallied Saturday night in Needham, seeing to fire up supporters and raise money.

Massachusetts’ Republican base largely stands with Trump, who easily won the primary here in 2016 and 2020. A Suffolk University poll last month showed Trump claiming 55 percent of support from likely GOP primary voters.

But this is still Massachusetts, a deep-blue state that hasn’t backed a Republican presidential candidate since 1984. While the rally didn’t draw any organized opposition, a few people passing by exchanged words with the Trump crowd.

“Go back to your houses, you clowns,” a middle-aged man walking his dog yelled in a thick Boston accent. The crowd shouted him down, but the rally remained peaceful.

Trump continues to battle legal issues, both criminal and civil. He has been indicted on criminal charges four times in the past year, including in Georgia and Washington, D.C., where he is accused of plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Outside of Sully’s, as the restaurant is popularly known, car radios and boomboxes played a mix of patriotic music and Trump rally staples like the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” and Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Flags reading “Trump 2024 Take America Back” and “Trump 2020 (Expletive) Your Feelings” flapped in the mild morning breeze.

Multiple attendees said they once counted themselves as liberals or independents, but migrated to the right over the past 10 to 15 years.

What changed? Former President Barack Obama, who several, including Picanzo, owned up to voting for at least once, held the Oval Office for two terms.

“He was just selling us out,” said Ruth Freitas of Haverhill. She said the Iran nuclear deal, which she felt gave too much away for little gain, as well as immigration issues, pushed her toward Trump.

Beth Veneto, owner of Quincy’s Ginger Betty’s Bakery, has made news with her “Ginger Trump” cookies in the former president’s likeness in 2016 and 2020, when she also included Biden cookies as part of a store poll that Trump handily won.

She acknowledged that she’s undergone a political odyssey over the past couple decades. Long apolitical, she attended Obama’s inauguration before doing the same with Trump, whose outsider style she liked. Now, she’s running for GOP state committee as part of a Trump-friendly slate of candidates, citing immigration as a key issue.

“What changed?” she said. “The world’s gone to hell in a handbasket.”

Sean Cotter can be reached at Follow him @cotterreporter.

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