Trump supporters in Michigan confident their votes will pay off


JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: The fallout from last week's failed Republican effort to repeal the Obama health care is still being felt across the political landscape nationally.

President Trump's approval rating now hovers around 40 percent in tracking polls.

In Michigan, a state he won, Trump supporters whom William Brangham spoke to offered their own assessments of the president's first two months in office.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Sixty-four-year-old Randall Shelton is a self-described independent and angry white man. For him, Trump's election wasn't a surprise, even though Trump wasn't Shelton's first choice.

RANDALL SHELTON: Well, I wish there had been other candidates, but I chose the one that I believe was going to do the right thing. I thought he was going to do and I still believe he's going to do the right thing.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Shelton lives in Allen Park, a blue-collar suburb of Detroit.

Twelve years ago, he got hurt working at the local General Motors plant, and he's been on disability and off work ever since. He thinks Democrats and Republicans are blocking the very things Trump was elected to do, like bringing back jobs and fixing immigration. But Shelton says the president is also partly to blame for some of his early failures.

RANDALL SHELTON: It seems like, once he got in there, all he wants to do is play golf and take vacations and tweet. If he'd shut up and just do what he said he's going to do and stay off the Twitter, and take care of business in Washington, he would probably be a whole lot better off.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Thirty miles away in Novi, Michigan, we found a small, ardent group of supporters who remain totally committed to the president.

DON EBBEN: I have been completely blown away, completely surprised.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In a good way?

DON EBBEN: In a good way.

GERRY CLIXBY: I still find him a little bit of abrasive. But I'm willing to forgive it. I'm willing to look past it, because he's the president of the United States. He's leading the direction from whence we have come. And that's important to me.

MESHAWN MADDOCK: We were Trump before Trump was Trump here in Michigan.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Meshawn Maddock helped organize this gathering. She ran a Facebook group called Michigan Women For Trump.

MESHAWN MADDOCK: It was when he talked about getting rid of the people within our own party that are the problem. That was what motivated me.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Maddock likes that Trump is disrupting what she sees as a broken political system and that he's using social media in a way that no president has ever done before.

MESHAWN MADDOCK: I don't believe anybody is monitoring him on Twitter. It's all him. And what I love about is that there is no middle man anymore. So I think he's completely changing how the media is going to work and serve the people. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Theresa Johns originally wanted Ted Cruz, but later came around to the Trump camp, even though a recent Quinnipiac poll. Showed that six in 10 Americans say the president is dishonest, Johns is not one of them.

THERESA JOHNS: Trump has never, ever said anything that has not come to pass. It's not. He's always said — what he has said is the truth. And I don't think that he has reason to lie. What does he have to gain by lying? Nothing.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We also asked about the various allegations surrounding Russia, that Russia seems to have tried to undermine Hillary Clinton's campaign and that members of the Trump campaign may have close ties to Russia.

Does that bother you at all?

MESHAWN MADDOCK: I hate to say it but it doesn't bother me. I don't want to focus on Russia. I just think it's smoke and mirrors.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So you don't think there's any of these allegations?

MESHAWN MADDOCK: I don't think there's anything to it. I think it's just they — they are going to try to do anything they can to try to bring this man down.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Few expected President Trump to win here in Michigan, but it was the last state he visited on the campaign trail and one of the first he came back to after he was elected.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thank you to the incredible people of Michigan.

LINDA BRANDIS: This is the type of guy that is crude and he's loud and he is not politically correct. But he says everything we think.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In Commerce, Michigan, Linda Brandis, who's an active member of the state's Tea Party, remains thankful the president won. But she also just reached out directly to him about some growing concerns she has.

LINDA BRANDIS: I sent him an e-mail last night.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What did it say?

LINDA BRANDIS: It said, I voted for you because I'm concerned about health care. And I wanted to remind him that it was the grassroots that put him in the White House, and it can be the grassroots that takes him out of the White House.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Brandis was disappointed that Trump didn't push initially for a full repeal of Obamacare, and then, when the Republican-led Congress couldn't pass their bill, the president just seemed to move onto other priorities.

LINDA BRANDIS: In his mind, he really thought, oh, I can go in and I'm just going to fix this. And it's not that easy a problem to fix. And I don't appreciate the childish attitude of, it's my way or the highway.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Guy Gordon hosts the afternoon talk show on WJR in Detroit. His show follows Rush Limbaugh's.

We were there the afternoon the Republican health care bill collapsed, and the phones lit up with callers, like Beth from Macomb County.

BETH: I'm disgusted with the conservative Republicans. They need to get their heads out of their you-know-where.

GUY GORDON, Radio Host, WJR Detroit: There is a heartland here in America that feels overlooked, disrespected, mocked for their beliefs. They have also seen their jobs leave. And there's no greater window into that than Macomb County.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Macomb County is famous in political circles, because, for decades, this area voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. But then in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan campaigned here and he turned those Democratic voters to the Republican side. This area became known as the home of the Reagan Democrats.

JACK BRANDENBURG (R), Michigan State Senator: You are right now, at this moment, sitting in the birthplace of the Reagan Democrats.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: State Senator Jack Brandenburg says he was the first elected official in Michigan to formally endorse Donald Trump. And he believes that following Reagan's path through Macomb County, which had gone to President Obama in both 2008 and 2012, was key to Trump's success.

Trump won Macomb County by more than 48,000 votes, but carried the entire state by less than 12,000.

JACK BRANDENBURG: If you do the math, Macomb County put him over the top in Michigan and quite possibly gave him the presidency.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Closer to downtown Detroit, the lingering scars of the area's economic crisis are everywhere.

CORON BENTLEY: Just about everybody in this neighborhood has basically voted Democrat, but I tell people all the time, what has 50-plus years of Democratic policies done for our communities?

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Fewer than 5 percent of voters in Detroit picked President Trump, but Coron Bentley, who works for Ford Motor Company, supported him. He says he gets a lot of grief from friends and family for being a black Republican, but he's glad to have voted for the president, and he says it's already paying off.

CORON BENTLEY: There was talk of them building a brand-new $700 million plant in Mexico, but, instead, they decided to invest that money in the plant that I work at. As Herbert Hoover once said of all people, prosperity is right around the corner.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Bentley says that optimism stems from Ford's recent decision to reinvest more than a billion dollars into three Michigan plants.

President Trump applauded the announcement on Twitter earlier this week, saying car company jobs are coming back to the U.S. However, Ford said much of the plan had been in the works long before the election.

Back in Allen Park, Randall Shelton wants the president to refocus on cracking down on illegal immigration and to start acting a little more presidential.

RANDALL SHELTON: So, you're supposed to be the president of the United States. Act like the president of the United States. Don't act like some braggart, some spoiled little rich kid, which you are, and start doing what you're supposed to be doing.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Shelton says, in the end, he's still glad he voted for the president and hopes he will start turning things around in the weeks and months ahead.

For the PBS NewsHour, I'm William Brangham in Detroit.

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