The president of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield said Friday that Donald Trump's planned weekend appearance is by no means a political endorsement, noting in a weekly blog post how the Catholic school has a long-standing policy of opening its doors to a variety of speakers and promoting an open dialogue.
"Over the years, we have made our facilities available to community leaders, politicians and presidential candidates from across the political spectrum," wrote John Petillo, noting how the school was asked to rent out the venue due to its "proximity, accessibility and availability."
Petillo said the school has received "a great deal of feedback — both positive and negative" since the Republican presidential candidate's campaign announced Thursday that Trump would appear Saturday at Sacred Heart for a 7:30 p.m. rally.
"There have been hundreds of requests for tickets, and there have been negative responses based on opposition to his philosophies, opinions and pronouncements," Petillo wrote. "Some also have questioned whether — as a Catholic university — we should allow him access to our facilities, as some of his stances and proclamations appear contrary to our religious beliefs and values."
Petillo said the university understands that reaction, but added how any political candidate would elicit similar responses.
"Should we use that criteria, we would eliminate candidates from both parties and would be absent from the discussion and the democratic process," he wrote.
JR Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, said Trump's visit shows he stands a good chance of winning the state in November. A June 7 Quinnipiac University poll showed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leading Trump among registered Connecticut voters, 45 percent to 38 percent. That survey had a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points.
"Obviously the Trump campaign must have something," he said, dismissing claims by Connecticut Democrats on Friday that Trump has no chance of winning Connecticut's seven electoral votes. Former President George H.W. Bush, in the 1988 election, was the last Republican to win Connecticut.
"He's delusional," Nancy DiNardo, the state Democratic Party's vice chairwoman, said of Trump. "There's no reason for him to be in Connecticut. He won't make any headway here."
The Democrats are making Trump an issue in state legislative races, challenging their GOP opponents to disavow Trump, arguing he doesn't have the temperament to be president. Romano said he's not surprised by the tactic, adding how it was done when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney ran for president.