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Some Trump supporters are hesitant to openly voice their support on campus, fearing condemnation from the larger Penn community, but Vincent Palladino has spoken out.

Credit: Morgan Rees

With the presidential election less than two months away, the eyes of the world are on the Republican nominee and Wharton alumnus, Donald Trump. Widely criticized for the controversial statements he has made throughout his campaign, Trump has been divisive even among conservative voters. Nevertheless, even on Penn’s left-leaning campus, the Donald finds a base of support.

“I have faith in him — almost like a blind faith,” said Vincent Palladino, a senior in the College who has supported Trump since the first months of his campaign.

Palladino keeps a life-size cardboard cutout of the candidate in his room, and has no reservation in sharing his support for the person he believes will make America great again. “I think he’s a smart man ... [with] a lot of experience,” said Palladino. “He’s a good problem solver, regardless of what the problem is.”

One of Trump’s solutions that resonates strongly with Palladino is the proposed border wall with Mexico. “I look at our public school system ... [Illegal immigrants] are given seats in our classrooms... putting more strain on teachers, increasing class sizes. These are all bad things that probably end up harming underprivileged students in our country.”

Palladino may be something of an outlier in the conservative community at Penn, as it seems other intended Trump voters on campus are markedly less enthusiastic about their support for the Republican nominee.

“There are definitely a lot of things I do not agree with [Trump] about,” said current LPS student Alex Schimert. “One, the way he delivers his message.” Schimert, who identifies politically as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, said that he did not initially support Trump, but has been won over by the political outsider. “He’s like the strong leader you can get behind.”

For Schimert, the great injustice of this election is in the imbalance between coverage of Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “[People are] angry about what one person says,” argued Schimert, ”versus what the other candidate has done and is currently doing.” He also expressed disappointment in what he perceives as an unwelcoming political environment on this campus in regards to support for Trump.

“It’s easy for [Trump supporters] to get bullied into just not talking about it,” said Schimert. “You’d think that something like free speech would be celebrated; apparently, it’s not.” He went on to say in more passionate terms that the situation is “utter bullshit.”

“Quote me on that, I want ‘utter bullshit’ in the article.”

The notion that there is a stigma surrounding openly supporting Trump seems to be a widely held belief among conservative students at Penn. In the fall of 2015, a short-lived Penn for Trump group gained little traction among the predominantly liberal student population. The group’s founder, current Wharton sophomore Patrick Lobo, said that he disbanded the group when Trump’s divisive statements became too much for him to maintain his support.

“The comments about banning any Muslims from entering the country ... was more or less the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Lobo, who now supports Gary Johnson’s bid for the White House. “That was the point I said to myself: ‘Is this really something I want to align myself with anymore?’”

College sophomore Christian Petrillo shares Lobo’s belief in Johnson’s libertarian ideology but feels that too much may be at stake in this election to vote for his third party favorite.

“If the election were held today, I’d probably vote for Trump,” said Petrillo, “[but] I don’t know if, when I go into that ballot box, I’m going to choose him or Gary Johnson.”

For Petrillo, the decision is likely to to come down to what he considers the lesser of two evils. “My main goal in November,” he said, “is to make sure that Hillary Clinton never becomes president.”

That distrust for Clinton turned out to be the most consistently shared belief among these four students. “I look at Hillary Clinton, and I perceive her as being dishonest,” Palladino said. “That’s someone who’s a career politician and their livelihood depends on them being in politics and having power.”

Despite Clinton’s lead in the polls, Palladino remains confident in his candidate. “I would be slightly surprised if Trump didn’t win,” Palladino said, “but obviously it’s too close to call.”

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