Trump calls for Starbucks boycott at raucous Springfield rally

By Monique Garcia and Rick Pearson, Chicago Tribune

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump stopped in the state’s capital city Monday for a raucous rally where he congratulated himself for strong ratings as host of “Saturday Night Live” and called for a boycott of Starbucks over holiday cups.

The hourlong event attracted thousands, from fans who wore the businessman and TV personality’s face on neckties to hecklers he chided from the stage to those who simply came to see the political theater.

Trump promised to be an “unpredictable” leader, taking jabs at Democratic candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, saying he dropped a joke aimed at Bush from Saturday’s edition of the sketch comedy show because it was “too nasty.”


“See? How nice am I?” Trump said to laughs.

The developer drew loud cheers when he called for a boycott of Starbucks after the coffee company dropped the words “Merry Christmas” from its annual holiday cups, and said the prospect of taking in Syrian refugees could amount to a “Trojan Horse” for the Islamic State. While the crowd was largely supportive, Trump shouted down hecklers yelling “Feel the Bern,” a reference to Sanders.

“Oh, get out of here,” Trump said from the stage before criticizing Sanders for dismissing the scandal over Clinton’s private emails during the first Democratic presidential debate.

“Bernie had his chance during the debate and said, ‘Oh, forget about the emails,’ now he is trying to take it back,” Trump said. “If we had honest government, Hillary wouldn’t be allowed to run.”

“She’s got a burst of energy, but it won’t last long because the energy is not a natural energy,” Trump said of Clinton.

Trump also misread the downstate crowd in praising “a very nice place called Chicago,” drawing boos as he tried to criticize the loss of jobs from a Nabisco plant to Mexico. “Love it or not, it’s ours,” Trump said.

Trump’s appearance came exactly one year before the 2016 presidential general election with his national front-runner status in polls being closely challenged by Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon. Trump’s ability to stay at or near the top has confounded many pundits who had contended his brash style, bullying of critics and controversial statements on immigration would sink his candidacy.


But the rise of Trump and Carson — and freshman Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to some degree — also points to a desire among some in the Republican electorate to forgo a lengthy political resume for an outside candidate willing to challenge the establishment. The most recent Real Clear Politics polling average of national surveys showed Trump a scant 0.8 percentage points ahead of Carson — 25.3 percent to 24.5 percent.

Carson, who has been atop some recent polls, has come under recent scrutiny over past writings and actions. Trump has played to large crowds across the country — some supporting the idea of an outsider candidate, others taking in his speeches out of curiosity and potential entertainment value given his national celebrity and ability to remain in the news.

In Springfield, Trump addressed an enthusiastic crowd of downstate residents who traditionally lean more conservative. The nearly 10,000 free tickets for the event were claimed within hours, with the Trump campaign putting the crowd at 10,400. Some supporters lined up for the evening rally beginning at 8 a.m.

Vendors hawked buttons and camouflage hats with his slogan, and beer sold for $6 and shots of cinnamon whiskey were $8.

Joe Close, of Roscoe, came decked out in his own merchandise, wearing a tie featuring Trump’s face. The trophy and sign maker produces two styles of silk Trump ties and said he supports Trump because of his business experience.

“I think he’s a true American and he has the right mentality for what we need,” Close said. “I think politics and the politicians are done and it’s time for a real person to get in there.”

Trump has begun putting together an organization in Illinois for the state’s March 15 primary, recruiting Springfield attorney Kent Gray as director of his campaign. Gray has worked as an advance man and consultant in previous Republican presidential campaigns, setting up events for candidates such as Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain and, in the most recent White House election, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

To be successful in Illinois, Republican presidential candidates must field and win individual delegate candidates to the 2016 Republican national nominating convention.

(c)2015 the Chicago Tribune Visit the Chicago Tribune at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.