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Iowans Give Their Take On The State Of The Union


How did the State of the Union speech look in Iowa? It's the state that votes first on Democratic presidential challengers, several of whom were in the House chamber for that speech last night. Iowa is also the state that would vote first if President Trump were to face a primary challenge. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea saw the speech from Denison, Iowa.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: I found a group watching the president on the flat-screen TV up in the corner of the lounge at Cronk's Cafe in Denison, a local eatery that's been here since 1929.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That we added another 304,000 jobs, last month alone, almost double the number expected.

GONYEA: George Blazek is a 30-year-old attorney in town.

GEORGE BLAZEK: I thought he did very well.

GONYEA: Blazek is a Republican, but one who did not vote for Trump in 2016. He voted third party. There are still things about Trump he does not like, but he thinks there has been real progress, especially on the economy.

BLAZEK: I did not vote for Trump in 2016, but if I had to do it over again, I might have voted for him.

GONYEA: On the government shutdown, Blazek says he thinks Trump's proposals on the border wall and its costs were reasonable. He adds, though, that he'd like to see more of the Trump who spoke last night and less of the one firing off insulting tweets in all caps. The Democrats watching in Denison had a different take. Thirty-six-year-old Ken Kahl is in the real estate business and is continually offended by the way Trump talks about caravans heading north through Mexico to the U.S. border.

KEN KAHL: The same exclamations of, you know, the dangerous immigrants. And it's almost comical, you know, just the way they portray this danger.

GONYEA: He heard a speech riddled with inaccuracies and exaggeration. Then there was the moment when the president spoke of what he called the economic miracle taking place in the U.S. It's all threatened, Trump said, by the investigations into him.


TRUMP: Ridiculous partisan investigations.

GONYEA: That got a big laugh from the Democrats watching.



UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Let's just throw that together. No.


GONYEA: Even the Republicans present chuckled. The speech lasted well past the restaurant's closing time, but the place stayed open until the president finished and the audience slowly exited into the single-digit temperatures outside. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Denison, Iowa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.