CHICAGO (AP) — The voters who made possible Donald Trump’s victory included people who consider themselves moderates and came around to Trump after supporting other candidates.
Some live in the “blue wall” of states in the Upper Midwest that, until Tuesday, backed every Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992. Some voted for Democrats in the past. Some kept their Trump support secret until after the election to avoid scorn from acquaintances and co-workers.
Here’s a look at voters who helped usher in a Trump presidency, and why they did so:
In Michigan, Patrick Burke supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the GOP primary but “jumped on in full support” of Trump as he bested the field.
The 60-year-old automotive and business consultant lives in suburban Detroit’s Macomb County, which was home to the “Reagan Democrats” in the 1980s. In 2012, Obama carried Macomb County by 4 percentage points. Trump enjoyed an 11 point-plus margin there.
Trump stands for “making sure that if you work hard that your government is there to help you rather than hurt you,” Burke said, noting that Trump’s message “of prosperity and reducing the debt and a strong military and reforming immigration really resonated” with blue-collar workers.
A drive through Burke’s city Wednesday found more Trump signs than Hillary Clinton, and some took their allegiance to the extreme: One home’s front lawn featured a large wooden basket with life-sized, scarecrow-like people sticking out and a sign labeling it “The Deplorables,” — a reference to Clinton’s description of half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” The lawn display also featured a sign that reads: “Climb In There is Room For All.”
Trump’s vitriolic volleys are well-known — his declaration that Mexico was sending “rapists” across the border, and a tape that emerged last month on which Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitals.
Burke said Trump isn’t perfect, but he believes the most divisive and vulgar rhetoric “was just all talk.”
“I like the fact that he’s been successful. He has built some incredible things. He has had his failures but he’s had huge successes,” Burke said. “I think that Trump has the vision that we need to have now to get us pointed back in the right direction.”
Iraq War veteran Rebecca Zbichorski, 28, of Milwaukee, is a first-time voter who supported Trump because “America needs a kick in the behind.”
A factory worker who gets her health care through the Veterans Health Administration, Zbichorski enlisted in the military at 18 and served nearly eight years as a Marine. She said she sees Trump as a “regular type of guy” who doesn’t care what anyone thinks, which made him the best candidate to give U.S. government the “shake-up” she thinks it needs.
Health care was her top issue as a voter, she said. Identifying neither as liberal or conservative, she would prefer Canada-style national health care. She notes Trump once spoke favorably of Canada’s system before his current support for working with Congress to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Her family, she said, has had a “nonstop hassle of getting insurance” under Obama’s health care law.
She discounted the women who came forward to say Trump made unwanted sexual advances.
“In the military, that’s a common situation,” she said. “It’s what happens with a man in power and a woman who comes in who’s gorgeous and attracted to money and power. … I don’t know the full facts. The only people who know are the women in question and the man himself.”
She unapologetically keeps a copy of Trump’s book “Crippled America” in full view of her co-workers. It was a way to broadcast her position, which she sums up with a social media meme, minus the hashtag: “I’m voting for Trump. SorryNotSorry.”
“He’s the slap in the face. He’s the wakeup call,” Zbichorski said. “Let the man do what he’s got to do.”
Eileen Barlow, a 56-year-old small business owner and part-time bartender, voted for Trump because he’s a businessman and not a politician. He’s also not a Clinton.
“My grandfather always said that what we need is a businessman in the presidential office, and that’s what Donald Trump is,” Barlow said as she stood behind the bar at the local American Legion post in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois, readying for a busy night that included a meat raffle.
In her voting lifetime, Barlow says she supported Republicans about 60 percent of the time and Democrats roughly 40 percent. Most of her family members are Democrats. But Bill Clinton was her “tipping point.” Barlow voted for him twice. Then came the scandal over his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky
“After what happened with him, it turned me off the Clintons permanently. Not just that he did it. But admit it. Don’t stand there and lie to us,” she said.
Obama’s signature health care law was another reason.
Both Barlow and her husband are small business owners, and between them have three adult kids. Come Feb. 1, they will be paying just shy of $1,400 per month in health insurance premiums for the two of them, with a $2,500 deductible per person.
“The Affordable Care Act is a mess,” she said. “We’re trying to save for retirement. We paid for our own kids’ college — we’re still paying for it because we didn’t want our kids to be loaded down with debt. And now (Democrats) are talking about giving away free college? Who’s going to pay for that?”
Like a lot of Trump supporters, she said, she kept quiet about backing Trump: “You don’t want to be ridiculed, mocked, told you’re stupid.”
Illinois is a reliably left-leaning state, and Clinton, who was born in suburban Chicago, easily won it Tuesday. She also won DuPage County, where Barlow lives. But Trump resonated with voters elsewhere in a way Mitt Romney didn’t, taking 12 more Illinois counties than the 2012 GOP nominee.
At Anthony’s Barber Shop in Middletown Township, Pennsylvania, owner Anthony Canamucio’s customers range from doctors to lawyers to retired steel mill guys of all races. Most of them, like Canamucio himself, voted for Trump.
“We were sick and tired of elitist and career politicians,” he said.
Canamucio, who typically votes for Republicans, supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker early in the crowded GOP primary, but as that battle stretched on, his choice shifted.
“You could see who was just a career politician trying to move up the ladder — Walker included,” he said. “And then there was Trump.”
Trump “spoke like people speak here when they’re in my barber chair” and had positions on issues that the 50-year-old barber said mirror most of “middle America.”
Take immigration: Canamucio said it doesn’t make sense to him that states are issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally or that Syrian refugees are coming to this country rather than going to neighboring Arab states. In Trump, he found someone who felt the same way.
“He was the first person who seemed to have some common sense,” he said.
Now, it’s important for Trump to follow through on his campaign promises, he said. “I think people are expecting him to do what he says he’s gonna do. They’re just sick of having smoke blown up their you-know-what.”
Clinton won Middletown Township and Bucks County. But Trump outpaced Romney’s performance in the suburban Philadelphia county and shaved Clinton’s winning percentage from just over 50 percent for Obama in 2012 to roughly 50 percent this year.