Trump mastered that art long ago. He comes across as genuine, unfiltered no matter what he's saying, which is why none of the gaffes that should've sunk his campaign have done so. Trump's voters don't expect him to be perfect or to even perfectly encapsulate their values. They just don't think he's as full of shit as every other politician who comes a-courtin' them each election cycle.
"I don't think he can do everything he's promising, but at least he's going to try," was the sentiment expressed to me by one elderly rancher I talked to at a Trump speech in late February. This was the same day Chris Christie announced his official endorsement of Donald Trump, the first sign of a reconciliation between the GOP establishment and Trump the Inevitable. Appropriately enough, one of the songs that led Trump out to the stage was "You Can't Always Get What You Want," by The Rolling Stones.
Media coverage of Trump supporters usually portrays them as a bunch of screaming hillfolk, itching to beat up protesters and screaming themselves hoarse with catchphrases. And there were plenty of those people at the rally. Whenever Trump hit one of his applause lines about building a wall or carpet-bombing ISIS, placards would raise, the crazy guy behind me would scream something incoherent, and the whole room would erupt into deafening cheers ...
Just like you'd expect. But as the speech went on, I started looking around at the faces in the crowd, and I noticed something: Only about half the audience, maybe less, was cheering or applauding at any given time. Here's how the other side of the room looked, about a quarter-second after I snapped that first picture:
These guys aren't secret protesters or disillusioned. From what I gathered talking to many of them in the cramped and sweaty hour we spent standing together before the event, they are simply a more cautious brand of Trump supporter. GOP loyalists who see in Donald Trump not an idol but a man with enough money that he can't be corrupted by Wall Street. Trump speaks to their fears and frustrations, and since he isn't in anyone's pocket, they feel like he might mean it. Many of the rally attendees were former supporters of Christie or Jeb! or Rubio. They are still concerned about the strange, red-faced man who might be their candidate, but now are also willing to give him a try. As I stood there, I thought back to something Barry had told me:
"There's this natural occurrence in GOP primaries, where people want to be with the winner. ... If he can crack 50, this could end pretty fast."
Currently, 44 percent of Republicans support Donald Trump. And it's not because they're all racists or gun-toting crazies. Two of the most fervent Trump supporters I met at the rally are Latino-American immigrants. One is a young mother. And the most consistent reason they all give for their support is the same thing you'd hear at a Bernie Sanders rally:
"He's not in anybody's pocket. He doesn't owe favors to any big donors. He's his own man."
And now he's their man. Donald Trump is absolutely a liar, a racist, a charlatan, and maybe even an honest-to-God monster. But if all the people following him were those things too, he wouldn't still be winning.
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