Frustrated N.H. Voters Lean Toward Outsider Presidential Candidates
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
By now, something about the Republican presidential polls has become just as predictable as it was shocking a couple of months ago. Add up the totals for Donald Trump and Ben Carson, and you get around half of Republican primary voters. Throw in the less-numerous Carly Fiorina supporters, and it's a clear majority. Three candidates who've never been elected to anything lead a field of senators and governors past and present.
What's the appeal of the outsiders of 2016? Well, I asked some people in New Hampshire, where presidential politics is not a spectator sport. It's something that lots of people get involved with, people like Jerry and Susan DeLemus of Rochester, N.H.
SUSAN DELEMUS: Good morning. Get out of the way, dogs.
JERRY DELEMUS: Come on. She's excited.
SIEGEL: They live with their four dogs and with Susan's mother, who's progressively succumbing to Alzheimer. Jerry is 61. Susan, who's a state representative in New Hampshire's huge part-time citizen legislature, is 59. Jerry is a general contractor. He broke his hip last year when he fell off a roof. He's also a former Marine. But first and foremost, he says, he is a Christian. When we sat down for cake and coffee, Jerry said grace.
J. DELEMUS: Father, we just glorify you when we praise your name.
SIEGEL: Jerry and Susan's Christianity is largely improvised. Jerry says he has little to do with any church, but he reads the Bible and shuns interpretation.
J. DELEMUS: ...Lift up those in the Middle East who are being persecuted for their faith, Father, and ask the Church to find their voice to defend them. So we just ask that you bless this food, and we ask that it's all in your son, Yeshua's name - amen.
SIEGEL: He calls Jesus by his Hebrew name, Yeshua, and observes the Sabbath on Saturday. Jerry and Susan are both fed up with the size of the federal government and the national debt and with what they see as economic and foreign policies that work against American interests. They are both strong supporters of Donald Trump.
J. DELEMUS: He speaks what's on his mind. He's not beholding to anyone.
SIEGEL: For the DeLemus's, Trump's lack of any government experience isn't a negative that he overcomes with other virtues. It's a virtue in itself.
J. DELEMUS: I think we need a businessman, somebody who is - as Donald Trump talks about, some of the people he would hire - cunning, who knows how to swim with the big fish.
SIEGEL: As for people who express surprise at Trump's popularity among evangelical Christians...
S. DELEMUS: They're like, oh, well, he's been divorced and this and that. Well, guess what? My mom's been divorced three times. I've been divorced three times. Jerry's been divorced. You know, everybody's got those kind of skeletons, if you even want to call them, in the closet. It's not a big deal. He seems like a good, solid family man. He cares about his wife. He cares about his children. He's built an excellent empire. What a business guy.
SIEGEL: Jerry DeLemus organized a New Hampshire campaign event for Donald Trump that made news. It was the event where a man referred to President Obama as a Muslim and Trump did not correct him. Jerry also had plans, plans he later abandoned, for a draw-the-prophet-Muhammad contest. He despises what he considers political correctness.
I asked Jerry DeLemus what he thinks when he watches C-SPAN and two members of Congress of opposite parties address each other politely, ceremoniously. To Jerry, it is not civility. It's a fake. It's lying.
J. DELEMUS: They go, oh, my good friend, my colleague, whatever. Well, half of us would like to punch the guy in the mouth ourselves. You know, we're going, you're not doing what you're supposed to do. The other guy's lying, and you know it. Call him on it.
SIEGEL: As Jerry sees it, politicians go to Washington and become cozily corrupted. So it's time for an anti-politician.
J. DELEMUS: We keep doing the same thing over and over by electing Democratic and Republican senators, governors, congressmen, and we end up with the same problem. Isn't that the definition of insanity? You keeping hoping for a different result when you don't have one.
SIEGEL: About 50 miles south of the DeLemus's rural home on the outskirts of Rochester, Cathie Chevalier, a medical office coordinator, has a different candidate, a different tone of voice but a similar point of view.
CATHIE CHEVALIER: I think everybody is just so tired of the gridlock and so tired of not getting done what we've been told we would get done. So I think everybody's just hoping that maybe if it's not a politician, that the outsiders will actually keep their word.
SIEGEL: Cathie Chevalier's husband was a Marine sergeant major who served for 31 years. He's now active in the VFW and Republican politics. The photos in her office in Salem, N.H., are mostly of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But there are some political pictures too, and they are pictures of some very mainstream Republicans.
CHEVALIER: Most of them have my husband in them, is why they're in here. But there is a picture of Paul and I with John McCain, a picture of us with W., a picture with Lindsey Graham. I kind of fell into politics because of my husband.
SIEGEL: He organized veterans for John McCain and for John Huntsman in past primary campaigns. Cathie has opted this year for Dr. Ben Carson. She's his New Hampshire state chair.
CHEVALIER: I'm very attracted to the outsiders, obviously mostly to Ben Carson.
CHEVALIER: Well, he just strikes me as being the Pied Piper. I was attracted to him immediately when I saw the prayer breakfast.
SIEGEL: That was Carson's speech to a national prayer breakfast in 2013. With President Obama nearby on the dais, Carson decried political correctness, moral decay and the national debt, and he proposed a system of health savings accounts presumably to replace the Affordable Care Act.
CHEVALIER: He's a brilliant man. I think he is self-educated, and I think he's smart enough to surround himself with the people he needs. It's not a one-man show or a one-woman show. It is - you need a team.
JIM BOYLE: This is the service department. We have 24 bays here.
SIEGEL: Jim Boyle's Toyota dealership is in a building that he had renovated. It used to be a vocational high school.
BOYLE: When it was a school, this was the auto shop. On this end, there was the machine shop, so we just converted it, more or less, back to what it once was.
SIEGEL: The dealership is in Portsmouth, N.H., on the Atlantic coast. Boyle is 59. He loves cars, and he's been in the car business most of his life. He says that makes him a very overregulated businessman.
BOYLE: Just when you think you've got it figured out, there's another set of rules.
SIEGEL: From the federal government, now including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, even from the city of Portsmouth, he says, which Boyle is frequently battling over land-use issues.
BOYLE: Well, these regulators - they're just never happy with what they're doing. I'm not sure they understand the endgame. They want to do more and more and more, and they've never done anything.
SIEGEL: Like many a Republican small businessman, Jim Boyle sees the public sector as bloated, right down to the University of New Hampshire where, he says, professors ought to get no more than $60,000 and health insurance. On the subject of Bernie Sanders' idea of free tuition at public colleges, Boyle is sarcastic.
BOYLE: Bernie thinks they should go to school for free. I just felt a little out of place when he didn't want them to have a new car.
SIEGEL: Jim Boyle thinks the Republican field is deep in talent. One candidate he's especially impressed with is Carly Fiorina.
BOYLE: Very impressed.
BOYLE: She's really smart. She's got a lot of drive. She knows what she wants, and she knows why she wants it. I think she's got leadership capabilities. She has a gift, obviously, to talk about things that a lot of people don't like to talk about.
SIEGEL: Like defunding Planned Parenthood. Boyle hasn't completely settled on a favoritem but he did host an event at the dealership for Fiorina.
BOYLE: I support her very much, obviously. I think she's got some really strong capability there. She's really smart.
SIEGEL: One question about Carly Fiorina that's been raised, along with Donald Trump and Ben Carson, is, they've never been in government. They've never been elected to anything. Do they have any idea of how one legislates or how one implements policy beyond business? How do you sort that one out? Is that a plus that she's never been involved in any kind of elective office?
BOYLE: Well, I think, if anything, it's certainly not a minus. It could be a plus because she knows what it's like to deal with these bureaucrats, as does Donald Trump. He goes to planning board meetings. Talk to Carson - same deal.
SIEGEL: Portsmouth, N.H., auto dealer Jim Boyle says his service department is full of cars with over 100,000 miles on them these days. People aren't trading in the way they used to in a stronger economy. Contractor Jerry DeLemus, whom we heard from earlier, says many of his customers have never gotten back to where they were when housing prices and the stock market cratered in the Great Recession. These Republican voters see the country in great need of repair. And like half of Republican primary voters who talk to the pollsters, they figure an outsider is no less suited - and possibly better suited - to lead that effort as president of the United States. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.