ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The wealthy suburbs around Detroit with stately homes and quaint downtowns used to be considered conservative strongholds, but the region has been changing. And in the era of Donald Trump, that change is accelerating, as NPR's Asma Khalid reports.
ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Michelle Pallas has a theory about this change.
MICHELLE PALLAS: I don't think the demographics have changed. I think it's the women have changed.
KHALID: I meet Pallas on a crisp, fall day at a park in Oakland County, and she introduces me to a group of supercharged political women, like 58-year-old Lisa Dorado.
LISA DORADO: It's a lot of women, women our age, this age group here that are standing up and saying, you know, we want good government. We want a country for everyone.
KHALID: Most of these women were not active in politics before 2016, but Donald Trump's election changed their thinking. They helped Democrats gain control of two key congressional districts in 2018. Now this collective of suburban women is on a mission to gain control of the statehouse and help Joe Biden win Michigan.
JENNIFER CEPNICK: For my family, we were a split house. And my husband voted for Trump. I did not.
KHALID: Jennifer Cepnick says her husband is now a "Never Trumper."
CEPNICK: He's voting...
KHALID: What changed for him?
CEPNICK: The lack of decency, the character.
KHALID: To win reelection, Trump needs some support from suburban independent voters and people who voted third party in 2016. But many of them have been turned off by Trump's character. Loyal Republicans, though, overlook it. Linda Holloway leads the Bloomfield Republican Women's Club. Initially, she thought Trump was a narcissist. But four years in, any inkling of hesitancy she might have had has turned into full-fledged enthusiasm.
LINDA HOLLOWAY: I think we trust him after seeing what he's done, that a lot of our reservations - I don't know that we like him. But your goal isn't be liked. It's to be respected.
KHALID: She says Trump has fulfilled his promises, whether that meant cutting taxes or nominating a Supreme Court justice like Amy Coney Barrett. But one key difference this year, she says, is that people aren't broadcasting their support. The shy Trump voter, she thinks, is more of a factor now.
HOLLOWAY: People are afraid because of the, quote, "cancel culture." People are afraid of expressing their opinions outside of a trusted circle. Like, I'm not because I don't have anything to lose. I can't be cancelled.
KHALID: Holloway is 75. Before retiring, she worked in business for decades. She says Trump supporters with careers are anxious about publicly broadcasting their political views. Christina Barr agrees. She's a local GOP activist.
CHRISTINA BARR: I was at an event the other night. These were professional people, well-off, educated, suburban, you know? And they were like, there's no way on earth they would put a Trump sign in their lawn.
KHALID: Barr, like other Trump loyalists, does not believe the polls. She's convinced the president will make up ground in these last couple of weeks.
BARR: I think a lot of it still might depend on some last-minute messaging.
KHALID: But Trump's closing argument thus far does not seem to entail a lot of introspection. At a rally this week in Pennsylvania, he lamented that suburban women don't like how he talks, but he doesn't have time to be nice.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Suburban women, will you please like me?
TRUMP: Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, OK?
CARLA BARROWS-WIGGINS: Suburbs are doing just fine.
KHALID: Carla Barrows-Wiggins is a Democrat from a tony suburb outside of Detroit.
BARROWS-WIGGINS: I don't know what he's talking about, whether he thinks there's going to be, you know, riots and no policing and things like that. But that's not what's happening, and that's not going to happen just because a different person is president.
KHALID: So far, pleas from the president don't appear to be helping his case. A new NPR/PBS/NewsHour/Marist poll shows Donald Trump losing suburban women by 30 points. Asma Khalid, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF RYAN HELSING AND MATTHEW SALTZ'S "CASCADE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.