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Trump supporters unshaken

October 6, 2016

Donald Trump's presidential campaign has hit a few bumps, at least if you believe the polls. Many of his supporters, however, seem unfazed by current surveys. Ines Pohl reports from a Trump rally in Arizona.

USA Donald Trump hält eine Rede in Phoenix
Image: Reuters/C. Allegri

Thousands of people shuffle into the light brown hall. According to event organizers, some 20,000 people have travelled to Prescott Valley in northern Arizona.

"There are usually never events like this around here," said Jeff, one of the police officers who have been called here from across the state.

The "event" is a Donald Trump campaign appearance, and it's one that few Republican presidential candidates have had to be overly concerned about. In solidly Republican Arizona, Bill Clinton's successful 1996 run for the Oval Office was the only time a Democratic nominee won the state since World War Two.

Yet recent polls show Trump cannot be entirely sure he will win the southwestern state or if it will go to another Clinton in the November 8 presidential election.

Mainly white Americans

Trump's campaign rhetoric and plans for a wall along the border with Mexico have not made him many friends among the 30 percent of residents in Arizona with roots in Mexico and other Latin American countries. At the Prescott Valley event, nearly all attendees were white.

Trump's visit to Arizona comes as his campaign deals with a politically difficult week. Since the TV debate with his opponent, Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, Trump has taken a series of hits and gets caught up in Twitter rants. "The New York Times" also reported that $916 million (817 million euros) in losses he declared in 1995 may have been substantial enough that he did not need to pay federal income tax for 18 years.

But in the red sand of Arizona there is no sign of the sun setting on his campaign. In fact, it is the opposite. "No one likes to pay taxes, and that he found a loophole to beat the system just shows how smart he is," said Pam Miera, adding that she was not interested in the fact that he didn't have to pay taxes because he was bankrupt.

USA Donald Trump Wahlkampfveranstaltung in Arizona
Miera said Trump's business success was self-evidentImage: DW/I. Pohl

"If you just look at his hotels, his golf courses, his casinos, then you'll see how successful he is," Miera said.

Like many of Trump supporters, she said she hopes that he will enter the White House and restore the United States to its former glory.

Janyne Brimhall is not interested in the tax issue either.

"Donald Trump knows from experience how to close the loopholes in the tax system. That's what counts," Brimhall said.

The Democrats' argument that it is unpatriotic not to pay taxes, has no traction with her. "He did what all smart businesspeople do. Don't break the law and pay as little tax as possible. That's what counts."

Bill Clinton, the adulterer

While she admitted not being a fan of Trump's speeches, she said much of what he says is taken out of context.

"He doesn't mean a lot of things the way they come across," Brimhall said.

The stylish woman in her mid-60s also said she is not bothered by his sexist jokes either. But she is bothered by the fact that Clinton has always protected her adulterous husband.

"If this Bill Clinton moves back into the White House, then I wouldn't let my daughter do an internship there," she said, referring to a sex scandal involving former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, who was working as an intern in the White House.

USA Donald Trump Wahlkampfveranstaltung in Arizona
Dea said she may not like everything about Trump but despises ClintonImage: DW/I. Pohl

Britney Dea put it more strongly: "A woman who supports a rapist is never going to get my vote. Some of what Donald Trump says is dumb. But I despise Hillary Clinton."

There is no evidence any of Bill Clinton's sexual affairs were non-consensual.

Contempt for and hatred of Clinton can be seen in the Prescott Valley parking lot where doll made to look like Clinton can be seen bleeding from the mouth in a cage on the bed of a camouflage pickup truck.  T-shirts with "Hillary for prison" have become nearly as ubiquitous at Trump events as the red baseball caps calling to "Make America Great Again."

Successful, clear and strong

Karin Royster is one of the few Afro-Americans in the long line to attend the Prescott Valley rally.

USA Donald Trump Wahlkampfveranstaltung in Arizona
Employing people of all colors shows Trump isn't racist, Royster saidImage: DW/I. Pohl

"Donald Trump is simply not racist because he employs people of all skin colors," she said.

She said she wasn't interested in Barack Obama being the first African-American in the White House, saying instead that she cared about what people could achieve.

"But you have to start with something to turn a million dollars into a billion," she said of the money he inherited from his father.

Calling Trump successful, clear and strong, she said he was her hero and a role model. A Republican senator from New Hampshire this week said she "misspoke" when she called Trump a role model for children.

Most people attending the Arizona rally appeared to have decided to vote for Trump this November, with only a few undecided voters in the crowd. Trump's supporters said they hope he will bring about a much-hoped-for change, create jobs and make the USA great and powerful again.

Others said they are planning to vote Republican to stop Clinton from winning.

Some not voting at all

Trisha Anderson brought both her daughters, aged 13 and 15, to the rally. The 45-year-old said she has always voted for Republican. But this time she hasn't yet decided which party will get her vote. She said she doesn't like it when Trump swears, but that it's the misogynist  language she uses that puts her off most.

USA Donald Trump Wahlkampfveranstaltung in Arizona
Anderson isn't sure how she'll vote in NovemberImage: DW/I. Pohl

"I don't want a president who speaks so badly about women," she said. "I don't want that for my daughters."

She added that it would be "pretty cool" for a woman finally to become president.

"But I can't vote for her either," Anderson said. "I don't trust her and the stuff with Bill Clinton was pretty bad."

Only Anderson's older daughter made it inside the hall for the rally before it was closed due to overcrowding. Trisha waited with her younger daughter, Shae, off to the side of the raucous group that has gathered in front of the screen outside to watch Trump's appearance. After listening to 30 minutes of Trump's speech she said she still had her doubts.

"He said what he always says," Anderson said. "Maybe it's just better to not vote at all. Because Hillary, no, I can't vote for her."