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Supporters Consider Whether Trump Can Turn Big Promises Into Policy


As a candidate, Donald Trump made many big promises, including taking on the Washington elites, tearing up trade deals and bringing back jobs to Rust Belt states. Voters heard him and helped him carry many parts of the country that have traditionally voted for Democrats. NPR's Don Gonyea went to one of those places in Ohio and talked to some of those voters.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Five months ago I stood next to a vacant lot where a massive steel mill once stood in Trumbull County, Ohio. I was with former steel worker Joe Shrodek, act a lifelong Democrat who voted twice for Obama.

JOE SHRODEK: Yeah, and what a mistake.

GONYEA: This was June, and Shrodek said this year he would be voting Trump even if his expectations were low.

SHRODEK: If he accomplishes 10 percent of what he says he's going to do, that's 10 percent more than anybody else is going to do.

GONYEA: Now to this week. Trump is victorious. He won Trumbull County, which Obama carried by 20 points in the last two elections. Shrodek is thrilled, but his expectations are still in check.

SHRODEK: I mean you can't build that mill back from scratch where it was. I mean after you tear it down to the ground, you can't build that infrastructure back up. It's gone forever.

GONYEA: Still, he says if Hillary Clinton had won, things would have gotten even worse. They are much more optimistic a few miles away at the Top Notch Diner where a 20-foot-long Trump banner is suspended above the roof line out front.


GONYEA: Inside, half a dozen regulars sit around a long table for breakfast. Most are retirees. Two are small business owners. There's one Democrat. I start with this.

You guys all voted for Trump.


GONYEA: What now?

GARY FREDERICK: Well, it's pretty simple. He's really laid it all out.

GONYEA: That's 64 year old Gary Frederick. He's co-owner of the diner.

FREDERICK: First of all, he can lower taxes on the industry. It can bring the overseas money that's sitting out there and reduce the taxes on that to bringing it in to build the inner cities with industry.

GONYEA: Another voice chimes in, saying regulations on businesses need to be slashed. There's also consensus at this table that despite what the experts say, the steel industry in this part of Ohio can make a comeback with tax breaks and a crackdown on Chinese steel imports.

DOYLE SMITHSON: We invented the steel industry here. We invented that. Why's it over there?

GONYEA: That's 75-year-old Doyle Smithson, who likes Trump's promises to renegotiate or tear up trade agreements like NAFTA and even slap big tariffs on China. Economists warn that could start a trade war. Smithson's reaction to that...

SMITHSON: I'm not worried about it.

GONYEA: Trade war with China...

SMITHSON: All we - we got to worry about taking care of ourselves.

GONYEA: Sixty-eight-year-old Robert Freeman owns a small towing and tire repair company. He took notice that Republicans who tried to distance themselves from Trump for months are now suddenly praising him.

ROBERT FREEMAN: They're all just all back pedaling because now they have to deal with him. They did not think that he was going to get in there.

GONYEA: Gary Frederick says all Trump has to do to keep Republicans in line is show them the electoral map.

FREDERICK: Trump's got that map, OK? I would shove that map in their yahudas (ph) every day and say, look at this map. This is what the people want. Look at this map. This is what the people want. Every day - I would show that to them every day.

GONYEA: None of the guys at this table say they expect quick results turning around the economy, but there's another thing they all agreed should happen soon. They want to see a Trump Justice Department bring criminal charges against Hillary Clinton and President Obama. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Trumbull County, Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.

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