Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Politics & Government

Trump Still Leads In Race For Republican Presidential Nomination

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Donald Trump has touched a nerve. Despite a string of controversial statements, he continues to lead the Republican field of presidential candidates. His popularity is fueled by an army of supporters. Well, this week, NPR's Asma Khalid spent time at a Trump event in New Hampshire and explains his appeal.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Nearly three hours before Donald Trump even took the stage, a line of people lingered by the door, and that's where I met Brian Nadeau, a 58-year-old laser machine operator wearing a camouflage hat with the motto Live Free Or Die. He says America has a lot of problems, especially when it comes to immigration.

BRIAN NADEAU: I'm all for legal immigration, but when they say immigration's out of control and it's broken, nobody's specific. Let's be specific. Donald Trump's being specific.

KHALID: Nadeau says he's not committed to any candidate, but Trump is the first one he's come out to see in person this campaign season.

FRANKLYN PATRICK FARNHAM: The guy is so compelling. He is so guileless. And he's said that I speak from the heart. What more do you want from a guy?

KHALID: That's Franklyn Patrick Farnham. He works at a small repair shop and usually votes Republican. The 72-year-old drove in from neighboring Massachusetts just to hear Trump speak.

FARNHAM: I'm totally behind Donald Trump because he's not a politician. He's not a Washington bureaucrat. He doesn't come out of Obama's sneaky White House. He's clean and he's free. He doesn't need this. He's one of the wealthiest men in the country, but he sees what's going on in this country and he wants to save it.

KHALID: Polls show that Trump is pulling support from a cross-section of traditional Republican voters - white men, very conservative voters and talk radio listeners.

ANDY SMITH: He's really doing better among just blue-collar voters who are disaffected with the Republican establishments.

KHALID: Andy Smith is director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, which does polling for media outlets. Polls also show Trump is charming voters who identify with the tea party, like retired Comcast employee Elena Abbene.

ELENA ABBENE: I have three people I'm looking at - Trump, Carson and Cruz. Trump is probably the top one.

KHALID: I asked her why.

ABBENE: His stand on amnesty, illegal immigration, the wall and the lose - getting the jobs back that we lost to China, Japan, etcetera.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE THE BEST")

JOE ESPOSITO: (Singing) Nothing's going to ever keep you down.

KHALID: When Trump finally took the stage, he explained his fan base very simply.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: The silent majority is back.

(APPLAUSE)

KHALID: Trump is attracting a smattering of support from unexpected places. He interrupted his speech when someone from the audience waved a copy of his book.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Should I sign it? Give me that book. Come on, give me that book.

KHALID: The young man with the book in his hand was Luke Birdsong, a 17-year-old Maryland high schooler who was on a college visit to Dartmouth and made a pitstop. Birdsong is impressed with Trump's business experience.

LUKE BIRDSONG: The way that he'll get things done and not sit on the sidelines and just talk a good game. And, you know, he has a proven track record - as I like to call it - of getting things done with all of the buildings he's built.

KHALID: Despite the enthusiasm Trump generates, polls show a majority of general election voters feel overwhelmingly negative about him. But not his fans in New Hampshire, who welcomed him like a celebrity. One guy, Eddie Mondello, even wrote him a song.

EDDIE MONDELLO: (Singing) When Trump is president, our enemies will run. When Trump is president, our borders will be secure.

KHALID: Trump takes his campaign to Alabama this evening where so many people are expected the event has been moved from a theater to a 40,000-seat stadium. Asma Khalid, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.