Web Video: How an Iowa family helped Dan Balz understand the Trump phenomenon

Dec. 06, 2016 AT 5 p.m. EST

We asked the reporters who covered the 2016 presidential campaign to share the most memorable person they met on the campaign trail. The Washington Post's Dan Balz shares the story of the Swearingen family in Iowa.

It was January 2016. Before any votes had been cast. Donald Trump had spent months leading the Republican primary polls. Longtime Washington Post reporter Dan Balz met a family in Iowa that helped "crystallize" Trump's appeal with voters in America's heartland. The Swearingen family had been lifelong Democrats and voted for Barack Obama, but Trump was their candidate of choice this time. "Donald Trump was talking to a group of people who were different than many of the people we were used to seeing at political rallies and that he was tapping into something that most other candidates didn't realize was there to be tapped," Balz remembers.

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TRANSCRIPT

Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

I met a family in Iowa in January of this year. The husband and wife and their adult son. The Swearingen family. And I was trying to understand, as we all were, what this Trump phenomenon was all about. It turned out that Martha Swearingen was a lifelong Democrat and had voted for Barack Obama but was totally in for Trump, had been totally in for Trump from the moment he got into the campaign. And I said, "Why?" She said, "He tells the truth, which most other people don't. He's not beholden to anyone, particularly people with money. And I think he has the kind of experience that I think would be good." And then I talked to her son named Brent, and one of the things I said to him was, "Does it bother you that Donald Trump says these very controversial things?" And he said, it was a very interesting and revealing answer, he said, "It really doesn't." He said, "We're in the age of social media and in a sense social media is a very course means of communication." He said, "I think you have to do that if you want to be successful." And it began to crystallize to me that Donald Trump was talking to a group of people who were different than many of the people we were used to seeing at political rallies and that he was tapping into something that most other candidates didn't realize was there to be tapped.

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