As billionaire Donald Trump surges in national polls, alarming some Republican Party leaders and GOP presidential candidates, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota talked with a group of six Trump supporters in Connecticut and asked them what it is about Donald Trump that strikes a chord.
Asked whether Trump’s comments questioning Arizona Sen. John McCain’s heroism offended them, some said they were actually more offended by McCain’s comments when he called those who showed up for Trump’s rally “crazies.”
“Don’t forget McCain insulted the ‘crazies,’ which is a blanket insult,” Susan DeLemus said.
And Paula Johnson pointed out that some of Trump’s supporters are also, veterans.
“Mr . Trump did say four times that McCain was a war hero and again,” Sean Van Anglen, a Republican, said, adding that “the media and everyone is only playing that one clip.”
And Jerry DeLemus, a veteran, said that Trump has an issue with McCain as a “sitting senator,” not as a veteran.
“As a Marine … we like guys who don’t get captured, too,” he said. “I don’t think that he meant that as an insult to POWs or the military at all.”
“He’s not a politician”
Trump has inspired a slice of the American public that is disillusioned by politics and politicians and some told Camerota that they cannot see themselves voting for anyone else but Trump.
“I like that he’s not a politician. I’m tired of politicians,” Johnson, a Republican said. “I’m tired of the sugar-coating that they tell us that they’re going to fix this economy. I believe Mr. Trump really wants to make America great again.”
Republican Jerry DeLemus, a veteran who served in the Marine Corps, said that Trump’s success as a business man is appealing.
“Our country is in terrible economic condition and middle class America has been decimated over the last 30 years. Donald Trump has taken businesses and companies and turned them around, made them profitable again,” DeLemus said.
“He says what he means”
While many politicians master the art of communicating with the public early on – what to say, what not to say, how not to say it and how to stay on message – Trump seems to have chucked the politician’s handbook.
But Trump, who announced his presidential bid without a prompter and without reading off a script, does not seem concerned with nuanced delivery. Some, like former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have called his approach “a barking carnival act” and “a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense,” but others say it’s refreshing.
“He says what he means. I honestly believe he’s telling the truth,” Susan DeLemus said, echoing a sentiment shared by all six supporters.
Trump himself, though, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview Thursday that if he were to become president, he would change his tone.
When Camerota asked the group whether Trump’s tone is presidential, Johnson said “Well, what’s presidential anymore?”
“I mean we have a president sitting in the white house right now. He’s taking so many vacations its costing the tax payers dollars,” Johnson said. “What has he done for America?”
Trump, Johnson said, “will take us above that” and make “America the way we once were.”
Some said that the issue of immigration would not have risen to the national spotlight had Trump not highlighted it.
“I think that immigration is the most important issue facing our country today,” said Ryan Girdusky, a Republican.
“What do you think is Donald Trump’s immigration policy?” Camerota asked.
“Certainly, to crack down on sanctuary cities,” Girdusky said. “I don’t think that Katherine Steinle’s death would have gotten the coverage it did had Donald Trump not been speaking about this.”
And none of the six Trump supporters were bothered by his comments that Mexican immigrants are “rapists” and drug dealers.
“He didn’t say Mexicans, he said Mexico,” Jerry DeLemus said, which is also a distinction that Trump has repeatedly made. “His point was that Mexico is outmaneuvering America and they are out maneuvering us. What other country in the world would allow that type of illegal immigration to come across the border?”
Will they vote for him?
Of all six supports, only two said that they are undecided about voting for Trump.
“Donald Trump has to bring to the table now, actual policies,” Girdusky said.
Jeff Goolsby, a Republican, agreed with Girdusky.
“I understand that a lot of what Trump is saying is a little bombastic. It’s a little put on. It’s for entertainment,” Jeff Goolsby said, adding that he’s “waiting to see what the real policies are going to look like.”
Camerota points out that while CNN made an effort to gather a racially diverse group of Trump supporters, they were unable to find African-Americans or Latinos to participate in the panel discussion.