FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2015 file photo, a reference to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is seen on the notes of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as he tucks his papers into his jacket as he arrives at a town hall event in Rochester, N.H.  Brady says his comments that he hopes Donald Trump will win the presidency were taken out of context and an example of why he tries to say as little as possible when speaking publicly. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Donald Trump loves two things – pandering and “winners” – and hates rules, so naturally he came to the defense of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady while campaigning in Rhode Island (near the heart of Patriots Nation) after Brady’s “Deflategate” suspension was upheld today by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals:

“First of all, let’s start by saying, leave Tom Brady alone! Leave him alone. Leave him alone,” Trump said, drawing wild cheers from New England-area supporters. “He’s a great guy. It’s enough, it’s enough.”

This is the latest chapter in Trump’s ‘bromance’ with Brady:

Brady and Trump have been connected since a red cap with the Trump slogan “Make America Great Again” was spotted in Brady’s locker last year….Brady called Trump “a good friend” in an interview with WEEI in Boston last December. “I have known him for a long time. I support all my friends. That is what I have to say.”…Trump told The New York Times in March he believed his friendship with Brady played a role in The Donald’s blowout primary victory in Massachusetts.

“Honestly, in that part of the world, a reference like Tom Brady saying Trump’s the biggest winner, Trump is a friend of mine, that makes an incredible difference,” Trump said. “Tom Brady is a great friend of mine. He’s a winner and he likes winners. He was very helpful to us in Massachusetts on Tuesday.”

Well, pandering to the New England crowd by cozying up to a popular local sports hero is all well and good, but there’s two sides to that coin, as Martha Coakley famously found out with her “Yankee fan” gaffe aimed at Curt Schilling back in 2010.  Because Trump was going to win Rhode Island walking away anyway, but the most pivotal primary of the next month is May 3 in Indiana.  And in Indiana, Brady is the hated rival of the hometown Indianapolis Colts and their former longtime star quarterback, Peyton Manning.  Brady has knocked the Colts out of the playoffs three times in four matchups, and his four Super Bowl rings have long been cited as evidence that he’s the greatest quarterback of his generation – not Manning.

How unpopular is Brady in Indiana?  An Indiana bakery had a hit selling cookies showing Brady’s famous courtroom sketch from the Deflategate suit.  If you’re an NFL fan, you don’t need polls to tell you that Brady is widely hated – Brady routinely turns up in discussions of the league’s most-hated players, and Colts fans famously loathe him – but let’s pick a few samples.  A May 2015 ESPN/ABC poll found almost two thirds of fans siding with the NFL against Brady, whose favorability with the league’s fans had dropped by then to almost even.  Online polls on sports websites generally find that nobody outside New England sides with Brady and the Patriots on Deflategate.  A February PPP poll – for whatever it’s worth – found that 29% of fans named Brady their least favorite QB, and that Manning was heavily popular with Republicans, while the Patriots were popular with the kinds of demographics who lean Democrat.

Trump’s pander may be smart politics in Rhode Island, but Indiana’s NFL fans may think otherwise.