BOISE, Idaho (CN) – Texas Sen. Ted Cruz held a commanding lead in Idaho late Tuesday, after Gem State voters touted economics, transparency and the Constitution at polls for the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary.
By two hours after the polls closed in Idaho – and with 47 percent of the vote counted – Cruz had picked up 43 percent of the vote. Donald Trump trailed in second with 28.2 percent, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came in a distant third with 18 percent of the vote.
At 2 p.m., only about 135 voters had reported to one polling station at a senior center in downtown Boise, but volunteers said they expected a flood of activity between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., when the polls close. Voting for the closed primary began at 8 a.m.
Boise resident Winston Mitchell, 78, responded in true Idaho fashion when asked for whom he voted.
“None of your business,” he quipped, but answered emphatically when asked about the quality he liked best about his candidate of choice.
“I think he’s read the Constitution, probably. A lot of them haven’t,” he said. “You probably know who I voted for just on that information; if you don’t, you have a problem – and you can bet it wasn’t Trump.”
Dave Ballinger, 83, is originally from Chicago, Illinois. He said the blustering New York business magnate is the man for the job.
“We just voted for Trump,” he told Courthouse News. “We have an African-American president and the African-American community, aged 18 to 25, 50 percent of them are unemployed.”
Referring to Trump, he added: “This guy is a business man. I think he is going to bring jobs, especially in the cities and even in Idaho.”
Joan Johnston, 56, from the Boise suburb of Eagle, said she intended to vote for Rubio and that she doesn’t like Trump’s style, which she claimed could even influence the trial of Bowe Bergdahl.
The U.S. Army infantryman from Idaho disappeared under suspicious circumstances while serving in Afghanistan in 2009. Bergdahl spent almost five years as a captive of the Taliban until he was released in a prisoner exchange in May 2014.
In December 2015, the U.S. Army said Bergdahl would be tried by general court-martial on charges of desertion and “misbehavior before the enemy.”
“Trump has said in three debates that he (Bergdahl) is a traitor and that could make it hard for him to get a fair trial,” Johnston said. “The media and the economists are taking a lot of the things he says out of context , but I’ve heard Donald Trump and I don’t really appreciate somebody that can actually be the ugly American, times one hundred.”
Johnston said Trump’s often broad unfiltered remarks could affect her safety while doing business abroad.
“It affects my business overseas,” Johnston, who teaches government agencies how to fight wildfires, said.
“We are employed by government and paramilitary, and military units to do wildland firefighting tactics training,” she said. “We go train people in places like the Kingdom of Kuwait, the Kingdom of Bahrain, we’ve worked for the King of Saudi Arabia. The things he says could affect our business. It will make our presence as the ugly American over there strained, and we depend on them for security. It comes down to our personal safety. It’s dangerous.”
Johnston said she feels Rubio is a man the people can trust.
“When I saw him speak here in Boise, he really talked from the heart,” she said. “He said we can’t just decide that we like or dislike people, we have to love everybody, all Americans. It doesn’t matter who you are, he will love everybody as an equal, and that really hit home. He is very transparent.
On Cruz, Johnston said: “Cruz says things and there is a kind of disconnect there because his body language is saying something else. That to me is an untruthful expression of who you really are. Rubio, to me, is an honest guy who wants to do an honest job. He will make mistakes, but I believe he would be willing to admit the mistakes and correct them. He wants to do the best job for all Americans and he want to uphold the Constitution, which is something I do not hear coming out of Trump’s mouth.”
A crowd of over 2,500 Idahoans greeted Rubio at a hangar at the Boise Airport on Sunday to listen to him speak. The roughly 30-minute speech touched on themes such as smaller government, strong defense, gun rights and lower taxes, with Rubio promising to unite a splintered party while aligning himself with an old GOP favorite.
“We don’t have to be more moderate to win these elections,” Rubio told the crowd. “We have to be authentically conservative – but an optimistic conservatism, not a nasty conservatism, not an angry conservatism, not a frustrated conservatism. A conservatism like Ronald Reagan.”
Rubio won in Puerto Rico over the weekend, earning 70 percent of the vote and all 23 delegates.
He didn’t fare so well in Kansas on Saturday, where he took 17 percent and finished behind Trump and Cruz. He also finished third in Kentucky and Louisiana, and fourth in Maine.
For Rubio, who is backed by Idaho Sen. Jim Risch and former presidential candidate Bob Dole, Idaho represents a chance to jumpstart a teetering candidacy.
“I know that this is not a role that you have traditionally played in Idaho, but you’re going play it on Tuesday,” he said. “You are going to play an important role in the direction of this campaign.”
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