President Trump's ardent backers support him more than ever
SUN CITY, Arizona (AP) —
President Donald Trump's most ardent champions are sticking by him, happy to absolve him of any wrong in the blame game over the deadly weekend violence at a rally of white supremacists.
Some Republican members of Congress have criticized Trump's back and forth response since a car slammed into a crowd of counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman and injuring 19 other people. Trump's insistence that "both sides" bear responsibility for the violence has sparked anger among many Americans.
But many of the men and women who helped elect Trump seem unfazed Wednesday by the current outcry over his statements what happened during the rally by white nationalists protesting the city's decision to remove a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
The enthusiasm of many of the president's core supporters has been noted in the past. Trump himself boasted last year he "could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters."
Such unflagging support at the heart of Trump's political base remains despite polls that show his approval rates overall dipping even before this latest flare-up.
"I WOULD VOTE FOR HIM AGAIN IN A HEARTBEAT"
In Sun City, Arizona, a retirement community and Trump stronghold north of Phoenix, 80-year-old John Libby said nothing the president has done since Election Day has changed his support for the man.
"I would vote for him again in a heartbeat," Libby said in the bright sunshine outside a grocery store in a strip mall of low-slung stucco buildings.
The Des Moines, Iowa native said he thought the president handled the aftermath of the Charlottesville attack well, but allowed that Trump's response "wasn't fast enough for some people."
Arriving at the supermarket in his golf cart, Dr. Charles Thomson, a 92-year-old psychiatrist formerly of San Diego, said he voted for Trump and now "I support him more than ever."
"HE HAS DONE NOTHING TO TURN ME AWAY FROM HIM"
Patricia Aleeyah Robinson, a retired truck driver from Toledo, Ohio, said her support of Trump has cost her friendships and strained family relationships.
But like many of the president's most passionate supporters, the 63-year-old black woman said her opinions about Trump have not changed amid the debate over his response to the violence at the Charlottesville rally.
"He has done nothing to turn me away from him," said Robinson. She said he doesn't defer to racists and feels he is the only president who has ever spoken directly to blacks.
"HE SHOULDN'T LET THE PRESS GET UNDER HIS SKIN"
Clemente Ruiz, a 49-year-old truck driver in Lubbock, Texas, said he's been happy with the job Trump has done. "I'd vote for him again tomorrow," he said.
The son of a Mexican immigrant who became an American citizen, Ruiz said his only criticism of the president is that he is too "thin-skinned."
"He refuses to let anything go," Ruiz said. "He shouldn't let the press get under his skin the way they do."
But overall, said Ruiz, Trump has accomplished much for the economy. "Everything is looking good as far as that goes and as far as our military goes," he added.
"HE SPEAKS HIS MIND"
Wyoming construction contractor Richard Mathern said he voted for Trump because of his business experience and wasn't fazed he hadn't spoken out more forcefully against the weekend violence.
The 48-year-old is among more than 68 percent of people in Wyoming who voted for Trump in the widest margin of victory in any state.
"Trump, he speaks his mind, there's no doubt about that. It does tend to tick people off," Mathern said during a break at a home nearing completion in Cheyenne.
"There's a lot of hatred down there (in Charlottesville) ... But tearing down historical statues is not the answer," he said.
THE PRESIDENT IS DOING "PRETTY WELL"
Branden Nong, a 35-year-old from a Des Moines, Iowa suburb who works in banking, voted for Trump because he identified with his entrepreneurial background.
More than six months after watching Trump's inaugural speech, Nong said he thought the president was doing "pretty well," even if he would like him to be more careful on Twitter.
But Nong feels Trump is delivering on the economy with clear markers like job growth. "I'm pretty happy with the results so far," he said.
He said the president was "measured" in his response to the violence in Charlottesville, but said it's unfair to blame him for deepening racial divisions that already existed.
"LET THE PRESIDENT DO HIS JOB"
Joyce Ash took a moment to ponder Trump after buying a dress at a Charleston, West Virginia shopping mall to wear to the funeral for her husband of 33 years, who died of pancreatic cancer.
The 71-year-old summoned nothing but support for Trump, who led her to ditch her lifelong support of Democrats. She recalled sitting up Election Night to watch Trump win, and has not regret her decision since then.
"Let the president do his job instead of trying to take him out every time you turn around," Ash implored.
She didn't follow the back-and-forth over Trump's statements on Charlottesville but saw no reason to question him: "I believe that if they would just give this man a chance, the economy, everything will start going better."
National Writer Matt Sedensky reported from New York. Also contributing to this report were John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio; Jamie Stengle in Lubbock, Texas; Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyoming; Barbara Rodriguez in Des Moines, Iowa; and John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia.