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Is Trump still as popular in West Virginia as he was in 2016?

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – It all seemed to come together that evening of May 5, 2016, when thousands of West Virginians gathered with then-candidate Donald Trump at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.

Greg Thomas

There was Trump, best known before his unlikely presidential bid for his reality show The Apprentice, on a stage in West Virginia, where people in the sold-out audience finished almost every famous line he said at that rally with him.

Republican political consultant Greg Thomas remembers it well.

“It was exciting. It was amazing. It was the best political event I had ever been to. It is the best political event I will ever go to,” Thomas said. “I was really proud to be part of that campaign, I loved it and that is Trump at his best.”

There was something about that evening that seemed to strengthen the relationship that a majority of West Virginians still have with Trump, now four years removed from his only term in office. Support that seems just as strong despite Trump’s well-documented problems.

Why?

Former Wood County Republican Party Chairman Rob Cornelius said it’s simple.

Rob Cornelis

“Biden has proven that the other side can’t get the job done,” Cornelius said. “Ninety percent of you say you are no better off than you were four years ago.”

Thomas sees Trump’s support in West Virginia in three groups.

He said, first of all, there are people who liked him eight years ago and still like him today because he is a disruptor. Second, there is a group that does not care much about his behavior but likes the policies produced during his first reign, and finally there is a group, known from Cornelius’ description, that does not like what the Biden administration has done. finished.

“I think you’re going to get groups that continue to connect and that’s why I think his support is greater than it was eight years ago,” Thomas said.

In the 2016 general election, Trump won 68% of the vote. The re-election bid four years later was virtually identical.

Act of faith

There is strong support for Trump among conservative churchgoers in the Mountain State.

Danny Jones

“It’s an act of faith,” former Charleston Mayor Danny Jones told MetroNews. “I don’t think people have anything against people forever. It’s vulgar, but they just move that part. People love President Trump because he is enemies of people who don’t like them.”

Thomas said the apparent mismatch is based on policy.

“It’s the policy. I’m as pro-Trump as anyone, but there are things he says and I say, ‘I wish he wouldn’t have said that.’ If you are a truly religious person and you truly care about family values, then that is the policy.”

Greg Noone, an assistant professor of political science at Fairmont State University, said the biggest thing Trump has been able to do is connect with people who feel like they have been abandoned or left out of the economy.

“There’s that dissatisfied feeling that others are rushing ahead and lagging behind,” Noone said. “I think he talks about that on a gut level and I think that’s the connection he makes,” Noone said.

Post Trump

Greg Nobody

Trump will win West Virginia in November and the national race is expected to be close again. Some wonder what West Virginia will look like after Trump, whether that’s in November, four years from now or eight years from now.

Cornelius called it a tough task because it will be difficult for anyone to match Trump.

“Politicians are by nature boring and risk-averse, Trump is not one of them,” Cornelius said.

He said Trump has been popular, especially in 2016, among people who don’t normally vote. Again, he said any subsequent GOP candidate will have a hard time matching that.

“It’s hard to find someone so interesting,” Cornelius said.

Thomas said Trump won’t be around forever, but if he is re-elected, he can enact policies that will impact the country for years to come.

Jones said Trump’s popularity, which many West Virginia candidates are clinging to in this election cycle, won’t last long.

“I’m not falling for it. It won’t work next time,” Jones said. “If he doesn’t win this election, he’ll probably go to jail.”

Prediction

How will Trump do on Tuesday?

“Sixty-eight percent,” Jones said.

Thomas said that despite his problems, Trump will once again show how strong he is in West Virginia. He said a large majority of West Virginians appear to be able to choose policy over person. He said this was on display eight years ago this month at the Charleston meeting.

“That was Trump at his very best and he has those moments, but he also has moments that are not his best. But that’s the problem with Trump: you have to take the whole thing,” Thomas said.