DUBUQUE, Iowa -- She once voted for Hillary Clinton, but now she’s supporting Donald Trump.
Rebecca Thoeni says the real estate mogul and presidential candidate is speaking truths no other politician -- of either party -- is offering right now. And it is his uncharacteristic bluster that made her bolt the Democrats in favor of the Grand Old Party.
“He’s down to earth and seems to have a lot of common sense, which is lacking. I just like him. I think he really stirred the people up,” said Thoeni, who huddled with approximately 800 other people at an outdoor Trump rally on Saturday, a chilly winter day in January. The venue was none other than a hangar at the Dubuque airport, the classiest of locations, if only because it provided the best view of Trump’s arrival in a Boeing 757 jet emblazoned with his name.
“I like how he wants to take back our country. That’s the main thing; it’s our country. And the respect. We’re getting screwed over,” she added.
Thoeni works at an electronics manufacturing firm in Dubuque, a city of approximately 60,000 people located along the Mississippi River, at the junction of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. She says the city is suffering from a stagnant economy, and is disappointed with Democrats for failing to adequately turn things around. When Trump, a wealthy businessman who espouses protectionist economic policies, rails against nations like Mexico and China, Thoeni says she can relate.
“People at the company I work for, they lost their jobs. They’re sending those jobs to China,” she said.
Thoeni is one of many working-class whites who make up a large portion of the Trump phenomenon currently sweeping across the country. It is a coalition that spans Southern states and the Rust Belt, which has suffered from economic decline, population loss and urban decay. It also includes a good chunk of less educated Americans who do not have a college degree, and who feel like they’ve been ignored by leaders in Washington.
Trump believes he can win over such voters, many of whom are registered Democrat but lean independent. Last fall, he predicted that his campaign would “go across lines.”
“I think I’ll have a lot of Democrat[s]. You know, [Ronald] Reagan had Democrats for Reagan, it was a very big group of people and a very big bloc,” he said in a September interview.
For Thoeni, who is planning on changing her registration, Democrats have put forth no other candidate that she finds appealing. Although she caucused for Hillary Clinton in 2008, she said that she finds the many controversies of her campaign unsettling.
“I voted for Hillary, but I do not want her in this. I was all for women's power, but she just got herself involved in too many things. She lies; it doesn’t look good. Her emails --” she said, before suddenly being interrupted by Trump’s descending plane as it flew low across the sky above the crowd.
“That’s Trump, that’s Trump right there!” she pointed excitedly, laughing along with a friend she brought to the event in hopes of persuading her to vote for the mogul.
And Bernie Sanders?
“Just too old,” she said of the Vermont senator, who is 74.
As Trump’s plane taxied on the runway, Thoeni remarked that she admired Trump’s energy and youthful appearance.
“He seems like such a young man. He seems my age," she said of the 69-year-old businessman. "He’s got a full head of hair."
Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.
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