MOHAVE COUNTY, ARIZONA —
People here in Mojave County, Arizona, don't trust surveys.
So they are not moved by recent polls that show President Donald Trump has a national favorability rating of 44 percent on average, rising to 52 percent, depending on whom is being surveyed. Much of that support comes from states like Arizona and their rural communities. In Mohave County nearly three in four people voted for Trump, more than any other Arizona county.
And by and large, residents of Mojave County say that President Trump is doing good job after less than a month in office. They echo the President in saying the stream of negative stories comes from a biased media, disgruntled Democrats and critics who benefit from the status quo.
Sam Scarmardo is an ardent Trump supporter. With a thick white mustache, shaven head, and military demeanor, Scarmardo owns a gun shop and shooting range called Sam's Shooters Emporium in Lake Havasu City. Shoppers can buy a silencer for their handguns or rent a high-powered rifle or machine gun.
"Sometimes he's a little bombastic," he says of President Trump, "but behind the bombast and show, there's a whole lot of thought on what will make American great again, and America does need to be great again."
Scarmardo has 158 fully automatic machine guns for rent and a million rounds of ammunition for sale, and at his indoor shooting range, visitors can try a World War II Thompson submachine gun or the more lethal M60. "The workhorse of the Vietnam War" shoots in excess of 600 rounds a minute. Historic machine guns like this are legal in many states, and adult Arizonans can carry weapons openly or concealed without a license.
Scarmardo trusts Donald Trump to support gun rights and more.
"Immigration's number one" he says. "We have people in this town that are out of work or underemployed, totally unemployed, that can't feed their own families and we have a terrible influx of illegal aliens."
Understanding American business
Lake Havasu, a haven for water sports, became a tourist mecca in the 1970s, drawing visitors from neighboring California, as well as "snowbirds" fleeing the harsh winters of the north-central US states and Western Canada. The city is best known for the transplanted London Bridge, a 19th century structure that once spanned the River Thames and now crosses a section of Lake Havasu, a dammed up reservoir on the Colorado River.
Since the economic crash of 2008, however, the community has struggled to rebuild its once vibrant economy.
Scarmardo attends a weekly breakfast of Republican men voters, joined by several women, where talk shifts from local issues like public spending to President Trump. These people are among the president's strongest supporters.
Jeanne Kentch, the Mohave County Assessor, questions why those who criticize Trump's temporary ban on persons from seven largely Muslim nations — now placed on hold by the courts — call conservatives like her homophobic and sexist, but she says they are ignoring that conservatives don't support the legal discrimination against gays and women in many Muslim countries.
"What is wrong with trying to protect the people from terrorists entering our country?" asks a woman named Diane Klostermeier at the breakfast meeting. "They do need extreme vetting," she said.
Jeanne Kentch, assessor of Mohave County, Arizona. (M. O'Sullivan/VOA)
Some here worry that the United States, divided by politics and culture, is on the brink of a civil war, this time hopefully without the guns or violence that marked the 1860s conflict.
Another attendee hopes that Trump is vetting those around him to weed out those who are pursuing their own agendas.
One supporter hopes that Trump, an international businessman, repairs relations with Mexico, on Arizona's southern border. He says the relationship has been tense since Trump insisted on the campaign trail that he will build a wall on the southern US border and make Mexico pay for it.
"It implies strained relations with the entirety of the Western hemisphere through Latin America," said Gordon Groat, a member of the Lake Havasu City Council who has worked in international trade. He says the tension "creates a great entree point for countries like China, who then exert their financial power in the region." He trusts that President Trump, as a skilled businessman, can maneuver those treacherous waters.
These voters say that Trump understands American business, and American values, and while others may criticize, they applaud what they see as rapid change in Washington.
Gordon Groat, a city council member of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. (M. O'Sullivan/VOA)