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Colorado's GOP Voters Decide Whether To Fight For Trump Or Switch Alliances


Supporters of Donald Trump say their candidate is bringing new people into the GOP, improving the party and its chances of winning in November. But there are a lot of Republicans who are also doing some soul-searching these days, wondering if they still fit in a party whose de facto nominee is Donald Trump. Megan Verlee of Colorado Public Radio has been talking to Republicans in that key swing state, and she has this report.

MEGAN VERLEE, BYLINE: Krista Kafer is crazy about her garden. This little plot at her house south of Denver is her pride and joy. A waterfall spills into an ornamental pool. There are raised vegetable beds and a bevy of hungry chickens.

KRISTA KAFER: That's Bernadette, Babaganoush, Babette.

VERLEE: This is an escapist kind of yard, an oasis.

KAFER: Yeah, this is a no political zone.

VERLEE: It's about the only place in Kafer's life that is. She co-hosts a call-in show on a conservative talk radio station, and she's long been active in Colorado's Republican Party. But as the returns from Indiana last week showed Trump decisively winning that state and wrapping up the primary, she went to her computer.

KAFER: Because I can multitask, I actually was on air when I changed my registration (laughter).

VERLEE: Kafer became a Libertarian because she considers Trump a dangerous demagogue, one she can't trust with the nuclear codes.

KAFER: It was an emotional decision. I'm not sorry I made it because I think there's some very practical reasons for doing it. But I was deeply dismayed.

VERLEE: Kafer's opposition to Trump isn't a popular position with some of her listeners. A fan named Angela recently called in to ask Kafer to reconsider.


ANGELA: I am begging you. With your sphere of influence, there's a lot of women out there that think you are just, like, the conservative voice.

KAFER: Uh-huh. That's awesome. Thanks.

VERLEE: Angela's no fan of Trump, but she fears Hillary Clinton more.


ANGELA: My friends and I were talking about this today and about how all of us, like, we feel like we're being forced to vote for Trump under duress.

VERLEE: Most of Colorado's Republican politicians say they will back Trump, even if they seem a bit reluctant to say his name. Clarice Navarro is a Republican state representative.

CLARICE NAVARRO: I'm absolutely going to support the Republican nominee and really believe in our Republican values. And that's where I'm at right now. I will be supporting all the Republicans that are on the ticket this year.

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

RYAN CALL: There is an interesting opportunity to build kind of a new, different coalition to support a Donald Trump candidacy and a Republican Congress that we haven't tried.

VERLEE: If that coalition comes together, it's likely to include people like Jerry Shoptaw. He is unaffiliated and has supported both Republicans and Democrats in the past. His first choice this year was Bernie Sanders. His second? Trump.

JERRY SHOPTAW: Not so much the policies, but just, you know, getting away from career politicians that have 30 answers to 1,000 thousand questions and they're all the same.

VERLEE: As for Kafer, the talk radio host who switched to the Libertarian Party, she's hoping Trump will lose and she can go back to the GOP. But she's not betting on it.

KAFER: If he 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.

VERLEE: 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. For NPR News, I'm Megan Verlee in Denver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.