A little more than a year ago, as Donald Trump was solidifying his frontrunner status for the Republican nomination in the face of a mounting toll of gaffes and outrageous pronouncements, Yahoo News set out to answer the question that had many establishment Republicans scratching their heads: Who are his supporters, anyway? In a series of profiles, we explored the backgrounds and beliefs of voters who had fallen early and hard for Trump. Now, with the president’s approval ratings near historic lows, we have gone back to these voters for their views about his presidency as it nears the 100-day mark. Are they disappointed that Obamacare hasn’t been repealed? Excited by the administration’s stepped-up deportation efforts? Dismayed by reports of chaos in the White House? Or energized by the president’s continued outspokenness? Here is one of those reports. Links to the others and a summary of what we found are here.
The first time I met Eileen Schmidt was a little over a year ago as she stood listening to Donald Trump speak at what became a rowdy rally at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, back when the New York real estate mogul was still a long shot in his bid for the GOP nomination, much less the presidency.
I had taken a photograph of her son, Dylan, a baby-faced 11-year-old who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” shirt that was a few sizes too big. But it was a shiny political button on his chest that first caught my eye. “Bomb the s*** out of ISIS,” it read, memorializing a quote that Trump had first used a few months before to describe how he would protect the U.S. from terrorism.
Dylan had picked out the pin himself at a stand outside the rally, and though it seemed unusual for a kid to be wearing a button with a curse word — especially in a conservative, family-values state like Iowa — Schmidt told me she was OK with it. Trump’s blunt pledge to annihilate ISIS was one of the things she really liked about him. Speaking a few weeks after the deadly San Bernardino, Calif., shootings — an ISIS-inspired attack that killed 14 people and injured 22 others — Schmidt said she lived in fear of something like that hitting close to home, and she supported Trump’s promise to take the fight to militants overseas.
By fortuitous timing, Schmidt and I spoke again more than a year later on a recent April afternoon when U.S. officials had just announced the deployment of the nation’s most powerful nonnuclear bomb on a cave and tunnel complex in Afghanistan said to be used by ISIS fighters. Schmidt, a nurse who works the early morning shift, had just gotten off work and hadn’t seen the news.
“I think what just happened is what Trump would describe as bombing the s*** out of ISIS,” I told her.
“Progress!” Schmidt exclaimed. “This is a wake-up call to people that [Trump] isn’t messing around, that he is moving forward and he’s doing what he can to keep America safe.”
As she was a year ago, Schmidt is firmly Team Trump. She loves the things that make many of his critics cringe, including his use of Twitter; his seeming willingness to say whatever he thinks, even if it offends people, and his habit of criticizing — even members of his own party. As we neared the 100-day mark of Trump’s presidency, Schmidt said she was happy with everything he had done so far, even if he had come up short on issues such as his pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare early in his presidency.
“I was disappointed, but he didn’t dwell on it and moved on to the next thing, and I liked that,” Schmidt said. “I don’t think it shocked him that it failed. … There are so many people against him, and I think you need to have those people actually feel the [negative] effects of the law in order to get something done. When they do, they will take it up again and something will pass.”
She dismissed Trump critics who say he hasn’t done enough to nudge Congress on the issue or used the deal-making skills he promised to employ to push other legislative priorities along. “It’s still early,” she pointed out, dismissing the criticism as the usual finger-pointing that has contributed to paralyzing political gridlock in Washington. “We don’t have time for that. People, stop criticizing everybody else, sit down together and make things happen.”
Another important issue to Schmidt was cracking down on illegal immigration, and she said she was “thrilled” by Trump’s early moves — including soliciting bids for his planned wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, and an executive order pushing law enforcement agents to enforce immigration laws. She also supported Trump’s efforts to temporarily ban individuals from six Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the U.S. — which has been put on hold by a federal court amid claims it violates the Constitution. “I don’t mind if people come here, as long as they are vetted and have all their paperwork in order,” she said. “This is about keeping us safe, and I support that.”
While she also supported Trump’s move to strike Syria and expressed trust in his foreign policy judgment, Schmidt said her only concern is that Trump work strongly with other foreign allies on any major military operations. “It can’t just be done by Donald Trump,” she said. “We can’t go it alone. We have to work with other people, and there has to be strong reasoning behind it.”
Read more from ‘The Ever-Trumpers’:
Read more from Yahoo News’ coverage of Trump’s first 100 days: