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 Are they disappointed that Obamacare hasn’t been repealed?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.
In recent days, Beltway pundits have taken to speculating that President Trump’s rapid-fire reversals on a dizzying array of subjects — Syria, Russia, NATO, China, the Export-Import Bank — might strike his voters as a betrayal of sorts: proof that the candidate they cast their ballots for isn’t the president they wanted him to be.
But for Ron Vance, at least, Trump’s willingness to change positions — his “flexibility”— is precisely the reason he voted for the Manhattan mogul in the first place.
“He’s unpredictable — and I see that as a positive, not as a negative,” the 60-year-old insurance agent from Pahrump, Nev., told Yahoo News. “He’s a salesman, not a diplomat. He’s a master marketer, not a bureaucratic manager. He’s a macromanager, not a micromanager. He likes controversy. He likes confrontation. He’s an entrepreneur. He has always said, ‘If something doesn’t work, let’s try it another way. Let’s rethink the process. Let’s get back to work and get the job done.’ I never expected consistency, so I’m not surprised or shocked. I’m liking it.”
Back in March 2016, we profiled Vance as part of a series of portraits of the real people supporting Trump in the Republican presidential primary. Vance was “the independent”: a college-educated social liberal who’d previously cast ballots for Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, John McCain and Mitt Romney (and who even admitted that Hillary Clinton was his No. 2 pick for the presidency, after Trump but ahead of the other Republicans who were still in the race at that time).
When Trump was elected, Vance called it “one of the happiest days of my life,” citing Trump’s deal-making résumé and his “good common horse sense” as signs that the “bomb-throwing” outsider might actually shake up Washington at last.
So what does Vance think of Trump now, 100 days into his presidency?
“If I had to give him a grade,” he said, “I’d give him an A-minus.”
Though Vance said he would dock the president a few points for failing to “overthrow” Obamacare, otherwise he’s pleased — especially by the aspects of Trump’s presidency that seem to scare the Breitbart wing of his base.
“Trump is listening to a lot more advisers,” Vance said. “This whole Steve Bannon thing — Bannon is pretty far out there. But otherwise Trump has some very, very competent people in there, and I’m glad he’s turning to them for advice.
“I’ll throw out a few names,” he continued. “Gary Cohn, the chief economic adviser, from Goldman Sachs. Richard LeFrak [a New York real estate developer]. Stephen Ross [another real estate developer]. Stephen Schwarzman from Blackstone. These are the people on the economic side — on job growth — that we’re going to be hearing more from over the next three and a half years. Other people might not like that he’s listening to a Democrat [Cohn], but I don’t have a problem with it, being an independent.”
Vance supports abortion rights, and he thinks the GOP’s “obstructionist” decision to “stonewall” President Barack Obama’s “qualified” Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, was “wrong.” But when asked to single out Trump’s biggest achievement to date, he immediately named Neil Gorsuch.
“It’s a slam-dunk,” Vance said. “Five stars. The guy is 49 years old. In 30 years I’ll be long gone, but Gorsuch will be making decisions that will affect this country in, I think, a positive way.”
As for Trump’s biggest flop, Vance said he’s confused about the president’s unfounded allegation that Obama tapped his phones during the election — and many of the other “lightning bolts” that Trump tweets out in the wee hours of the morning, seemingly to sow “chaos” and “discord.”
“I don’t think the wiretapping thing is true,” Vance said. “I don’t know why he brings it up. He’s a little thin-skinned, and his Twitter is a little crazy at times. So he can lay off some of that stuff.”
Looking forward, Vance is eager for tax reform — he expects it to benefit his Allstate insurance business — and he can’t wait for the so-called wall.
“They can’t build it high enough or fast enough for me,” he said. “It’s not the answer — but it’s a good start.”
Still, after a campaign in which Trump promised a less interventionist foreign policy, Vance is concerned about the president’s recent muscle flexing in Syria, Afghanistan and North Korea. He’s wary of another George W. Bush.
“Trump has surrounded himself with three generals at really high positions,” Vance said, naming Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. “The military always thinks there’s a military solution to these problems. And that’s not always the case. I hope Gary Cohn and Schwarzman and these other guys put their nose to the grindstone in terms of getting back to putting America first — our economy — and don’t spend an inordinate amount of time with these other countries. I don’t want to see us going down a rabbit hole, dropping big MOAB bombs every week over in Afghanistan.”
If Vance has a message for his fellow voters — both the liberals who are resisting Trump’s agenda at every turn and the conservatives who fear Trump isn’t really one of them — it’s this: “There’s no need to push the panic button.”
“The presidency is not a sprint,” Vance said. “This whole ‘first 100 days’ thing started back in 1933 when Franklin D. Roosevelt took office. The country was in dire straits. We had 20 to 25 percent unemployment. The stock market was crashed. Banks were closing every day. We’re not in those same times. I don’t care if Hillary got elected or Trump got elected. The presidency is far and away the most difficult job on earth. It’s a learning process. And Trump’s learning, he’s growing, he’s adapting.”
Vance paused as he searched for the right analogy. “It would be like going to a basketball game and predicting who’s going to win in the first five minutes,” he finally said. “It’s ludicrous. So everybody just sit back, take a deep breath and see where this thing goes. It’s too early to pass judgment.”
Read more from ‘The Ever-Trumpers’:
Read more from Yahoo News’ coverage of Trump’s first 100 days: