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Will Republican Voters Stick With Trump in 2024?  

Will Republican Voters Stick With Trump in 2024?
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Will Republican Voters Stick With Trump in 2024?

Donald Trump is running for president of the United States for a third time, despite a substantial number of voters saying that is a bad idea, according to a recent CNBC-All America Economic Survey.

His campaign to become just the second U.S. president to win nonconsecutive terms following Grover Cleveland in the late 19th century has as its foundation those who support Trump most. So what are those voters saying about his ambitions?

In 2020, Trump captured a majority of votes in every county of the states of Oklahoma and West Virginia. In Grant County, West Virginia, he won about 88% of the vote in 2016 and in 2020.

No one alive was around the last time a Republican lost Grant County's presidential vote. (It was William Howard Taft in 1912.) And it has been 15 years since any Democrat won a countywide office. Few these days even try. Those who do challenge the Republican nominees by running as independents.

Grant County's population of 11,000 is more than 97% white. The mostly rural county is sufficiently remote that if you appear in magistrate court on charges of not wearing a seat belt while operating a motor vehicle here, that will be noted in the local newspaper.

That newspaper is the Grant County Press, which has been publishing since the 19th century and is the county's only media outlet. It has just one staff reporter.

The newspaper conducted an unscientific poll on its Facebook page in late November after VOA contacted it to query about the county's extraordinary level of support for Trump, asking readers: "Would you consider voting for Donald Trump if he runs in the next presidential election?"

All but seven of the 36 respondents expressed unconditional support for the twice-impeached Trump.

"In a heart beat. At least he knew what was the right moves," responded Lisa Moyers. "We don't need a politician we need a business man."

"Only if Ron DeSantis doesn't run," wrote Andie Rudnicki Lowinski.

"No, no and never," was the emphatic reply from Freda Calhoun.

The old Grant County Courthouse in Petersburg, W.Va.,, dates to 1878 and is undergoing renovation.
The old Grant County Courthouse in Petersburg, W.Va.,, dates to 1878 and is undergoing renovation.

In an area with dozens of churches and only a few bars, Trump and the Republican Party reflect the deep conservative values of the county's residents, said Grant County Press managing editor Camille Howard.

"Since people are massively Republican here, whoever the Republican candidate is on the ticket is probably going to win," Howard told VOA. But when Trump ran in 2016, "a lot of people really wanted to see some change in the country, they wanted to see things improved and they wanted to be proud of being American again. People here are fiercely loyal to the state and to the country."

They are also resilient. Located on the banks of the south branch of the Potomac River, the county seat, Petersburg, was severely damaged by floods three times in the 20th century – 1936, 1949 and 1985. Each time, neighbors helped neighbors rebuild.

"I'm not saying everybody here is a churchgoer or religious, that's not true. But that value is here, where you look out for each other," Howard explained.

Of more than 7,000 registered voters here, fewer than 700 are registered Democrats. Retired school psychologist Frank Miller is one.

He told VOA that Grant County Republicans "have good values. That's the thing that really strikes me as odd. They've got the same family values, they value their husbands, their wives. They value their children, their grandchildren. They value all the things that I value, and yet they've got this little side thing politically that's just so far out."

"It's a cult," Miller said. "I'm a psychologist, I understand how cults work, where there's a suspension of reality. And they all focus in on what their cult leader says."

A frequent letter writer to the Grant County Press, Miller is a native New Yorker who married a native West Virginian and moved to the shores of Mount Storm Lake to retire.

Nature is a big attraction here. Tourists come to hike in the 7,100-hectare Dolly Sods Wilderness, part of a national forest with lush hardwood trees and a variety of fauna. The county is also highly regarded for its trout and bass fishing. There is little internet connectivity outside Petersburg, which is more than an hour's drive from the nearest interstate highway. Many homes are still heated by firewood.

A family sits with Santa and Mrs. Claus outside the Grove Cafe & Bakery in Petersburg, W.Va., as VOA’s Saqib Ul Islam videotapes the encounter.
A family sits with Santa and Mrs. Claus outside the Grove Cafe & Bakery in Petersburg, W.Va., as VOA’s Saqib Ul Islam videotapes the encounter.

The county's chamber of commerce is pushing to draw new businesses and industry by touting reliable electricity from both a large coal-fired power station and the largest wind farm in the eastern United States.

"We are a power-producing county," said County Assessor Jerry Ours, a 30-year member of the county's Republican Party executive committee. "The diversification has been good. Can we switch to green power right now? I don't think without the infrastructure. Over time, yes, I think it'll happen. But I'm not sure it can happen at the pace some people want it to."

During his presidency, Trump sought to save West Virginia's coal industry, deriding solar power as "not strong enough" and repeatedly railing against wind turbines. There is no evidence Trump's mixed energy message has dented his popularity with Grant County Republicans.

Few people here openly take issue with his failed quest to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which included thousands of his supporters converging on the U.S. Capitol. Two leaders of a militia have been convicted of seditious conspiracy and another federal trial on the same charges for four more defendants began this week.

Many Republican voters say what is more important for them is Trump's support for gun rights in a community where many hunt not only for sport but to put meat on the table.

"I do trust the man as president," said former surgical technician Jodi Ours, sister-in-law of the county assessor. "I think he does have the heart of America in his thoughts. Most of the people I know that voted for him before would vote for him again."