After A Rough Summer, Pennsylvania Trump Fans Explain Why He Is Still Their Guy In central Pennsylvania, a farm family, the CEO of a small paper mill and a student at Penn State University — all Trump supporters — weigh in on the candidate's claim of potential voter fraud.
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After A Rough Summer, Pennsylvania Trump Fans Explain Why He Is Still Their Guy

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After A Rough Summer, Pennsylvania Trump Fans Explain Why He Is Still Their Guy

After A Rough Summer, Pennsylvania Trump Fans Explain Why He Is Still Their Guy

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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It has been a rough summer for supporters of Donald Trump. A convention that aimed for harmony turned contentious. The candidate picked arguments with a Gold Star family and with the Republican speaker of the House, and polls have shown Trump falling behind.

So how is it all playing with his supporters? We went to Central Pennsylvania, a trump stronghold, to ask some members of his strongest demographic group - white men. The Walizer Farm in Howard, Pa., is home to three generations of Trump supporters. The Walizers raise beef and corn, or in this year of drought, they try to raise corn. Jim Walizer is 82.

JIM WALIZER: This corn out here - last year it was 12 feet high. It's not 12 feet today. But we had corn that hit 12 feet last year. We were kind of proud of that. It's not going to hit it this year, you know? It's as high as it's going to get. So...

SIEGEL: Well, it looks like - what? - about 6, 7 feet.

J. WALIZER: Six, 7 feet.


SIEGEL: Seven feet high.

D. WALIZER: So for about a month, that corn sat there, shriveled up - just no water, just dormant, so it wasn't growing much at all.

SIEGEL: That's Jim's son, 57-year-old Dennis Walizer. The family's farming tradition is being carried on by Dennis's 22-year-old son Jason.

JASON WALIZER: Working with these two men, it's made me who I am, and that's why I love it so much. I get to have a bond like no other with them.

SIEGEL: To help support the farm, Jason works part time at a local plant that makes natural lubricants and cleaners. He would work more, he says, but the plant cut back his hours. Many of the farmers in the scenic, rolling hills of central Pennsylvania can't get by just farming.

J. WALIZER: They're working away from the farm to make a living. That's what everybody's doing. You've got your wife working someplace else, and so you're just kind of sitting on the farm, and you're not making any money. You're hoping that your land will get worth more money, and someday when you sell it, it'll be worth money.

SIEGEL: Jim Walizer's grandson Jason went to a recent Donald Trump rally in Altoona. He came away convinced that Trump understands people like him and his family.

J. WALIZER: We were in this kind of overflow room packed probably full of a thousand people and 2,000 upstairs in the big, main room. He actually came down to our room first. And he came in, and he said, I've got to be honest with you, folks. You all have the nicest real estate in the building. That's why I wanted to come see you first. So it just made me feel that much more important.

SIEGEL: This was the rally at which Trump told the crowd that the only way he could lose Pennsylvania, a state where he's polling well behind, would be in the event of a fix.


DONALD TRUMP: The only way they can beat it, in my opinion - and I mean this 100 percent - if in certain sections of the state they cheat.

SIEGEL: The Walizer's share Donald Trump's aversion to government regulation, to immigration, to gun control and, above all, to Hillary Clinton. But do they actually believe that a Clinton win in their state, which hasn't gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, could only happen if the vote were rigged? I asked 22-year-old Jason Walizer.

If he were to lose Pennsylvania by eight or nine points, would you say that's 'cause he was robbed and crooked people took it from him?


SIEGEL: Really?

J. WALIZER: I could say that's possible, absolutely. There's so much corruption on Hillary right now, you know? How could I not believe that?

SIEGEL: Jason's grandfather Jim says a Clinton win in November in Pennsylvania could be legitimate, but it could be produced by cheating in heavily Democratic areas.

J. WALIZER: I think it's possible either way, and we think voter fraud in Philadelphia is pretty high.

SIEGEL: Republicans claim that Mitt Romney was robbed when dozens of Philadelphia polling places in black neighborhoods showed zero votes for him, but the Philadelphia Inquirer debunked claims of vote theft. They searched for Romney voters in those precincts, and they didn't find any.

Dennis Walizer says it's going to be close in Pennsylvania despite the polls that show Clinton well ahead. He says the margin could be just one percent or half a percent.

D. WALIZER: So when you get things that close, it does not take much of a fraud or anything to sway the election.

SIEGEL: What does he make of the polling that shows Clinton up by 8 or 9 percent?

D. WALIZER: I think a lot of people who are saying whether they're for, against the candidate, maybe a little bit afraid of what the label's going to be put on them, when they get to the voting polls and it's a secret ballot, things could be totally different.

SIEGEL: You might think there's a bit of a hidden Trump vote in the polls, people who feel that in public, it's the politically incorrect thing to say and therefore they're not saying it.

D. WALIZER: Exactly.

SIEGEL: Here's something interesting about the Walizers. They may oppose a lot of federal regulation, but they also take their environmentalism very seriously. They maintain private forest land. Jim speaks proudly of the chute he built to carry mountain stream water over his pasture to keep it free of pollution from manure. Green does not necessarily mean liberal.

In Tyrone, Pa., the American Eagle Paper Mills company exploits a green niche in the economy - recycling.

MIKE GRIMM: We buy waste paper, so everything that we make paper out of is coming out of post-consumer and manufacturing waste.

SIEGEL: Mike Grimm is trying to make Tyrone, Pa., great again. Mike's a local boy who went to Penn State and whose career in manufacturing took him to Germany for several years. He signed on as president and CEO of American Eagle Paper in 2013. The mill was closed in 2001 when it was owned by a publicly traded company. It was revived by a group of local investors.

Grimm says he was part of taking U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas, and now he wants to see that trend reversed. And while he may not have been his first choice for president, Mike Grimm wants to see Donald Trump elected.

GRIMM: Successful people are usually successful for a reason, and that really comes down to the people that you surround yourself with. He thinks like an executive. Is he an expert - absolutely not. But I do believe that he can find the right people. That's my trust.

SIEGEL: Hillary Clinton, he says, lost his trust over her handling of the email controversy and other matters. Five years ago, Mike Grimm says, he might have voted for her, but she lost him. And Donald Trump - is he in danger of losing Mike Grimm - so far, no.

GRIMM: He fans the flames way more than anybody should. That's not my style.


GRIMM: That's not most people's style. That's why we turn our nose a little bit sometimes when you get in a fight with a couple of parents that lost their son. I don't care what their religion is. We shouldn't be picking a fight with them, period. So that's generally where I'm at. Could I change my mind? I can't see myself voting for Hillary.

SIEGEL: In this part of Central Pennsylvania, the rare Democratic town is a college town. State college is home to Penn State, and it's home to some Trump supporters, like rising senior Chris Baker.

CHRIS BAKER: Yeah, if you want to come in, this is what I got set up.

SIEGEL: He was moving into his new apartment the morning we met.

BAKER: I got a couple ideas. I think the desk is going to go over here. I got a map of the world which I'm going to put up over here. Clock's going to go here.

SIEGEL: Baker is a leader of the campus group We Are for Trump. The Penn State College Republicans voted not to endorse their party's candidate. Like Mike Grimm, he was upset with Trump's criticism of the Khans, the parents of Humayun Khan who died in Iraq. But Chris Baker has since concluded that both sides were wrong.

BAKER: Trump was wrong for attacking their son. What he did is something I can never do. He's more courageous than I would have ever been for this country. I didn't go into the armed services. But I don't think that it was right for them to use the death of their son as a microphone to attack another candidate.

SIEGEL: For Chris Baker, the road to supporting Donald Trump took some surprising twists.

BAKER: I identify myself as a libertarian. When this originally started, my top three candidates in order were Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump. I liked Rand Paul because he supports the Constitution. I liked Bernie Sanders because he represents the people. And I like Donald Trump because he represents himself. He's an individual. The rest of the candidates - they represent interest groups and lobbyists and people who are funding their campaigns.

SIEGEL: And he credits Donald Trump with making this year's election compelling.

BAKER: Everyone is looking at the election now. Everyone is looking at politics now. If this was Jeb Bush versus Hillary Clinton, most people would be turning their eyes away.

SIEGEL: The Trump supporters I met in Pennsylvania represent different walks of life and economic circumstances, but here's what they have in common. They all say that the candidate wasn't most people's first choice. They all acknowledge that Trump has created some problems for himself, but they all see him as different from other politicians. That's good, they say. And they find him far preferable to his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

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