THE PROMISE: Would Trump supporters elect him again now?

For some Trump voters in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, their new president has already done more than Obama – but others have had enough

By The Guardian / April 25, 2017

Tax reform needs to happen now.

Neil Gorsuch is gold.

Keep giving the media hell.

Keep showing evil dictators who’s boss.

Try again on healthcare.

And don’t forget the tax cuts.

Those are some of the messages Donald Trump voters had for the president as the 100-day mile marker of his presidency approached, in a politically centrist county where the Guardian has been tracking Trump support since before the inauguration.

Backing for the president in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, a former industrial juggernaut which voted for Barack Obama twice before falling for Trump in 2016, appeared to be healthy, three months in. Both Democrats and Republicans who voted for Trump gave him positive marks – a B-plus or A-minus – although many supporters said the clock is ticking for the president to deliver on tax reform and other promises.

“The people who were for Trump and who supported him and voted for him are still 100% behind him,” said John Morganelli, the Democratic county district attorney who has been re-elected six times (and who declined to say whom he voted for last November). “So I think if the election was held again today, in Northampton County there’s a good chance that Trump would carry this county again. And it might be slightly closer, but I think that he would probably do well.”

Northampton was not supposed to jump for Trump in 2016. The Hillary Clinton campaign was so confident of victory here that it moved local operatives out of state, to North Carolina and elsewhere, in the run-up to the election.

But Trump’s promise to make America great again found unexpected traction in Northampton, among Democratic voters who remembered the heyday of Bethlehem steel, once a local symbol of national strength, or who sensed, they say, that Clinton did not truly care about their lives and challenges.

Trump won here by four points. To hear many voters in Northampton tell it, he would do the same tomorrow.

“It’s only 100 days,” said Christy Facciponti, 54, a former engineer at Bethlehem Steel, who was flying a Trump flag outside her home in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, last week. “Please, give him a second. He’s already done more than Obama ever did.”

The little fat boy over there, I think he’s putting a set of manners on him. Barber Joe D’Ambrosio

Joe D’Ambrosio, a barber in Bethlehem who changed his party registration from Democratic in 2016 to vote for Trump in the primary, praised the president’s conduct of foreign policy, especially his showdown with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

“Trump tells the strongest guys in town, if you want to mess with him, he’ll mess with you,” D’Ambrosio said. “And the little fat boy over there, I think he’s putting a set of manners on him.”

Bruce Haines, a Republican former steel executive who runs the Historic Hotel Bethlehem, praised Trump’s installation of Neil Gorsuch on the supreme court and said support for the president in the business community was robust.

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“The divisions are as strong as they were on election night,” Haines said. “The Trump people are just as supportive of Trump as they were on election night, and the anti-Trump voters are probably stronger against – there isn’t anything that guy’s going to do to get the Hillary voters. They’re just not going to accept anything.”

But even Trump’s strongest supporters say the clock is ticking for the president to sign major legislation in multiple areas, no matter how out to lunch Congress may be.

“Goodness sakes alive, Republicans have run on tax reform as long as I can remember, and we don’t seem to get it,” said Lee Snover, a Republican activist who is a kind of Patient Zero for Trump support in Northampton. “I mean I’ve got a Republican House, and a Republican Senate and a Republican president, and I still don’t have lower taxes? So I’m really having a difficult time internalizing that, coming to grips with that and accepting that. I really am.

“They need to get it done.”

Marie Claire Placide, a dress shop owner and fashion designer, in Bangor, Pennsylvania on 21 April 2017.

Marie Claire Placide, a dress shop owner and fashion designer, in Bangor, Pennsylvania.  Photographed: Mark Makela for the Guardian

‘I’m not interested any more’

As the dogwoods and magnolias bloomed and lawnmowers came out across Northampton county, interviews with Trump voters did reveal some pockets of discontent with the president, especially among people who said they had backed him on an impulse, or who had expected him to do more, sooner.

Marie Claire Placide is a two-time Obama voter whose dress shop in Bangor, in the north of the county, is going out of business. She voted for Trump, she said, “because I know he’s a businessman, and, you know, he used to be a Democrat”.

“So I chose him,” Placide said. “I even had some Democrat friends angry – ‘Why were you voting for Trump?’ I said it’s a free country. I vote for who I want.”

The Guardian asked Placide, who was naturalized as an American citizen in 1990 and who works an evening shift for a nursing agency to put her two children through college, whether she thought Trump had made America great again.

“No, I don’t,” she said, with a dismissive headshake.

“I don’t watch the news any more,” Placide continued. “I’m not interested any more. After the election, I didn’t watch the news.”

Around the corner from Placide’s soon-to-be-shuttered shop sits Miller’s Paint and Wallpaper, a local mainstay since 1923. Duane Miller, the 79-year-old owner and a Democrat, was mayor of Bangor from 1974 to 1990.

“As a very last-minute voter, I voted for Trump,” Miller said. “My first reaction was that Hillary would be the president and was unbeatable, you know, and there would be no problem. Having said that, my customers here, I was extremely surprised to find how many voted for Donald Trump. And it was almost as a protest.