Colorado Republicans’ Dilemma: Fight For Trump, Or Switch Parties?

Photo: Donald Trump in Boulder, Colorado (AP Photo)
Donald Trump, center, poses for a photo with Denver attorney Gabriel Schwartz (with hat) and others following the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, in October 2015 in Boulder, Colo.

A lot of Colorado Republicans are doing some soul searching these days, wondering if they still fit in a party whose de facto presidential nominee is Donald Trump.

Krista Kafer, co-host of a call-in show on conservative talk radio station KNUS in Aurora, the answer to that question came as soon as the news broke that Trump had handily won Indiana, all-but locking up the nomination. And she didn't waste any time making it final.

"I actually was on-air when I changed my registration," the long-time Republican said. In the space of a commercial break she left the party to become a newly-minted Libertarian.

"It was an emotional decision," Kafer said. "I’m not sorry I made it, because I think there are some very practical decisions for doing it. But I was deeply dismayed."

Kafer considers Trump a dangerous demagogue -- one she can’t trust with the nuclear codes. But her opposition to Trump isn’t a popular position with some of the station's listeners. A fan named Angela recently called in to ask Kafer to reconsider.

“I’m begging you," the caller said. "There’s a lot of women out there who think you’re the conservative voice.”

Angela is no fan of Trump, but she fears Hillary Clinton more.

"My friends and I were talking about this today and we feel like we’re voting for Trump under duress," she said.

Most of Colorado’s Republican politicians say they’ll back Trump -- even if they seem a bit reluctant to say his name.

"I’m absolutely going to support the Republican nominee and really believe in our Republican values and, um, that’s where I’m at right now," said Rep. Clarice Navarro, R-Pueblo. "I’ll be supporting all the Republicans on the ticket this year."

Many Colorado Republican worry Trump could hurt the rest of their candidates in this heavily Latino swing state. But he may also bring in new voters. At least that’s what former state Republican Party chair Ryan Call hopes.

"There is an interesting opportunity to build a new, different coalition, to support a Donald Trump candidacy and a Republican Congress, that we haven’t tried," Call said.

If that coalition comes together, it’s likely to include people like Jerry Shoptaw. He’s unaffiliated and has supported both Republicans and Democrats in the past. His first choice this year was Bernie Sanders. But with Sanders looking unlikely to clinch the Democratic nomination, Shoptaw is ready to vote Trump.

"Not so much the policies, but getting away from career politicians that have 30 answers to a thousand questions," Shoptaw said. "They’re all the same."

Kafer, the talk radio host who’s switched to the Libertarian Party, hopes Trump will lose and she can go back to the GOP. But she’s not betting on it.

"If Trump wins, and that becomes the face and direction of the Republican Party, then I think my efforts go into building the Libertarian Party to be the replacement of the home I once had," Kafer said.

As a self-described political nerd, Kafer says she finds this whole election cycle fascinating. It would be more fascinating, she says, if the stakes for the nation weren’t so high.