Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

For Trump's Most Ardent Supporters, Victory Was No Surprise

Eleanor Klibanoff

Linda Straub never thought she'd be so invested in a presidential election that she would attend a watch party on election night. But there she was, at Zach's Sports Bar in Altoona with the Blair County Republicans, cheering Donald Trump as he took Iowa.

"This is the first time ... I'm 54 years old and this is the first time that I feel that I'm actually electing my president," said Straub, from her spot on the bar's covered patio. "He is my president."

Straub said Trump spoke to her, and her struggles, in a way no other candidate has. She signed up to volunteer, making phone calls and knocking on doors. Straub decided, from the beginning, that she would stand by Trump no matter what. Even when he was trailing in the polls, she knew he would pull out a win.

And when those wins started rolling in, she and her husband, Don, weren't surprised in the slightest. 

"I just think that there's ... a lot of quiet Trump voters," said Don Straub. "They're not really proud of voting for Trump, but they feel that he's the best candidate."  

Don Straub said he understood that mentality. He was an ardent Trump supporter who'd been volunteering for the campaign for months, but unlike his wife, the idea of a President Trump made him a little apprehensive.

"You know, as much as I want to see change, it's going to be scary on how that change works out," said Don Straub. 

That being said, the idea of a President Clinton would have left him "scared to death, only because I don't believe in a lot of her policies." 

Campaign volunteer Benjamin Hornberger thinks Tuesday night's victory has nothing to do with secret voters or choosing apprehensive versus scared to death. He attributes the success to the underrated Trump campaign ground game.

"We called 5,000 people today," said Hornberger. "In one week, we knocked on 3 million doors, that's the most doors that any campaign has ever knocked on in Pennsylvania, ever."  

He took weeks off from work to volunteer for the campaign and says he wasn't alone in that. As state after state was called for Trump, Hornberger was clapping, cheering and celebrating the fruits of his labor. 

"I'm gonna let loose," when the election is called for Trump, said Hornberger. "It's been a long, long stretch. I've been working since April with the campaign. I've been doing this for a long time, and it's so, it's so good right now."

At 2 a.m., some, but not all, outlets had called Pennsylvania for Trump. It was a little anti-climactic — most of the watchers had already gone home and the bar was shutting down around the final few. But the moment was still sweet for Hornberger. 

"I'm so glad that I finally get to see Pennsylvania turn red," said Hornberger. "It'll be the first time in my lifetime that I'll probably see it. And we don't even know if it will happen again in 2020, whenever he runs for re-election. We'll see."

One moment to celebrate the unexpected victory that so many people out here in Trump country predicted, and then, on to the next.

Eleanor Klibanoff was WPSU's reporter for Keystone Crossroads, a statewide reporting collaboration that covers the problems and solutions facing Pennsylvania's cities. Previously, Eleanor was a Kroc Fellow at NPR in DC. She worked on the global health blog and Weekend Edition, reported for the National desk and spent three months at member station KCUR in Kansas City. Before that, she covered abortion politics in Nicaragua and El Salvador, two of the seven countries in the world that completely ban the procedure. She's written for Atlanta Magazine, The Nicaragua Dispatch and Radio Free Europe.
Related Content