US President Donald Trump arrives at a meeting with members of Congress in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on February 16, 2017.
NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP
While many see Donald Trump’s presidency as a slow-motion car crash, the core voters who elected him are standing by their man, shrugging off the scandals and thrilled he is sticking it to Washington’s establishment.
That was a common view at the auto races at Ace Speedway in rural North Carolina, where America’s stock car racing tradition was born.
“I think the Democrats are trying to make things hard for him,” Robin Hall said as she sat in the grandstands on Friday.
The 53-year-old daycare worker dismissed the chaos cascading into the White House in recent weeks as sour grapes from critics still shocked that Trump’s populist revolt thrust him into the top job.
“They’ve got their so-called panties in a wad right now,” she said. “They’re not in control.”
Exactly four months into his administration, Trump is by most accounts a leader under siege.
Democrats accuse him of obstructing justice by urging FBI director James Comey to halt an investigation into an adviser, then firing Comey — the very person overseeing an investigation into his team’s possible collusion with Russian meddling during last year’s election campaign.
Reports have since emerged that the president passed secret intelligence to Russian officials during a recent meeting, and that the FBI has identified a senior White House official as a “significant person of interest” in its probe into Russian interference.
All the while, Trump has lobbed political bombshells with his daily tweets, indignant and belligerent comments that have left many on edge.
Although the political firestorm has led some Republican lawmakers to back away, Trump’s base remains wholly on board.
– Impeachment ‘not happening’ –
The grass roots Republicans in conservative regions of the country are collectively swatting away the scandals, proudly defending their hero and insisting they care little or nothing about accusations that have sent reverberations through the White House.
Some aggressive Democrats have begun to discuss methods for Trump’s ouster, but “impeachment is not happening,” asserted Wayne Booker, a black attorney from Cary, North Carolina who backs Trump.
As for the Russia probe: “Drop it, move on and let the man try to do his job,” he said.
Although several Trump supporters said they acknowledge some of Trump’s missteps, they expressed confidence he would grow into the job.
“I think he’ll be alright,” said Cassidy Cloer, a 21-year-old university student in Raleigh.
“I’m not worried” about the scandals, she added. “They’re going to throw things at him.”
North Carolina voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but flipped Republican in 2012. Trump carried the state last year and, notably, four other states that voted twice for Obama.
Core supporters say they love the non-politician’s brash and unapologetic style even though it gets him in trouble.
“I love to see somebody that’s not politically correct,” said Brenda Murphy as she scored one of the Friday night races from the tower booth.
“I’m personally impressed with many of the things he’s done.”
– ‘Fair shake?’ –
Ace Speedway is located in Alamance County, one of the more conservative pockets of North Carolina.
“This is Trump country,” Murphy, 65, said.
Auto racing enjoys near-holy status in the state, and one of the sport’s pilgrimage sites is the museum dedicated to the stock car legend Richard Petty in the town of Level Cross, another conservative bastion.
Petty shook up the racing establishment as a rebel, much like Trump turned politics on its head last year, said plumbing contractor Randy Kimrey, who was displaying his renovated cherry red 1929 Model A hotrod outside the Petty museum.
“Nobody in Washington wanted Trump,” he said.
Now Democrats and establishment Republicans should give the president “a fair shake” instead of digging up dirt.
“I just felt like it’s another way they’re trying to take another stab at him,” Kimrey, 60, said.
Trump’s approval ratings have slumped since his inauguration, plunging to just 37 percent, according to Gallup’s Friday daily poll.
Back at the track, John Barilka, 52, was driving an asphalt-modified car in one of Friday’s races. He would not disclose his 2016 vote, but admitted he was “embarrassed” by Trump’s performance so far.
“He’s leaning toward chaos and controversy,” he said. “I think it’s a missed opportunity.”
But Matt Keye, 39, a warehouse employee attending a state fairgrounds festival Saturday in Raleigh, said the Russia probes are unfairly hamstringing Trump.
“I just want to get on with his agenda,” he said of Trump’s plans to repeal Obamacare and overhaul the tax code.
“Just put the Russian collusion behind him. They’re just upset that Hillary lost,” he added about Trump’s Democratic rival.
“Suck it up and move on. We’ve got a new president.”