After A Rough Summer, Pennsylvania Trump Fans Explain Why He Is Still Their Guy
It's been a rough summer for supporters of Donald Trump.
A convention that aimed for harmony had some disharmony. The candidate picked arguments with a Gold Star family and with Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Polls have shown Trump falling behind.
At a recent rally in Altoona, Pa., Trump told the crowd that the only way he could lose Pennsylvania — a state where he is polling well behind Democratic rival Hillary Clinton — would be in the event of a fix.
"The only way they can beat it, in my opinion, and I mean this 100 percent, if in certain sections of the state, they cheat," Trump said. As NPR has reported, Trump's suggestion could be difficult to prove come Election Day but does touch on voters' distrust of government and growing polarization.
NPR's Robert Siegel went to central Pennsylvania — a Trump stronghold — to ask some members of his strongest demographic group, white men, whether they agree with that notion.
Among those supporters are three generations of a farm family, Jim Walizer, 82, Dennis Walizer, 57, and Jason Walizer, 22. Siegel also spoke with Mike Grimm, president and CEO of the American Eagle Paper Mills; and Chris Baker, a rising senior at Penn State University, who is the leader of the campus group We Are For Trump.
Baker credits Trump for getting so many people to pay attention to the presidential election.
"Everyone is looking at the election now; everyone is looking at politics now," he said. "If this was Jeb Bush vs. Hillary Clinton, most people would be turning their eyes away."
On why Trump is their candidate
Jason Walizer: We were in this kind of overflow room, packed probably full of a thousand people and 2,000 upstairs in the big, main room. [Trump] actually come down to our room first. And he came in and he said, "I gotta be honest with you folks, you don't have the nicest real estate in the building, but that's why I wanted to come see you first." So it just made me feel that much more important.
Dennis Walizer: I think a lot of people who are saying — whether they're for or against the candidate — may be a little bit afraid of what the label is going to be put on them. When they get to the voting polls, and it's a secret ballot, things could be totally different.
Mike Grimm: Successful people are usually successful for a reason. And that really comes down to the people that you surround yourself with. [Trump] thinks like an executive. Is he an expert? Absolutely not. But I do believe that he can find the right people. That's my trust.
Chris Baker: I identify myself as a Libertarian. When this originally started, my top three candidates in order were Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump. I liked Rand Paul because he supports the Constitution. I liked Bernie Sanders because he represents the people. And I like Donald Trump because he represents himself. He's an individual. The rest of the candidates, they represent interest groups and lobbyists and people funding their campaigns.
On Trump's claims of possible voter fraud in Pennsylvania
Jason Walizer: Yeah, I would say that's possible. Absolutely. There's so much corruption around Hillary right now. How could I not believe that?
Jim Walizer: I think it's possible either way. And we think voter fraud in Philadelphia is pretty high.
Dennis Walizer: So, when you get things that close [a margin of 1 percent], it doesn't take much of a fraud or anything to sway the election.
On Trump's feud with the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq
Grimm: [Trump] fans the flames way more than anybody should. That's not my style. That's not most people's style. That's why we turn our nose a little bit sometimes when you get in a fight with a couple of parents that lost their son. I don't care what their religion is, we shouldn't be picking a fight with 'em period. So that's generally where I'm at. Could I change my mind? I can't see myself voting for Hillary.
Baker: Trump was wrong for attacking [the Khan family]. Their son, what he did, is something I could never do. He's more courageous than I would have ever been for this country. I didn't go into the armed services. But I don't think that it was right for them to use the death of their son as a microphone to attack another candidate.
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