Rust Belt voters on Trump: ‘I’d vote for him again in a heartbeat’

JEFFERSON, Ohio — Bonnie Smith no longer sets her alarm for 1:45 a.m. so she can head into town to make her heavenly pastries, cookies and cakes. It’s the only thing she doesn’t miss about her bakery, which she had to close last June.

“My eyesight was failing. I just couldn’t do it anymore, or at least until the doctors could figure out what was going on,” said Smith, who hopes that eye surgery will allow her to bake professionally in her home kitchen sometime next month.

While Smith’s personal life has suffered a setback since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, her support for the first Republican president she ever voted for hasn’t budged an inch. If anything, she says, her loyalty to Trump has increased since the Election Day result that seemed to take everyone by surprise — except people like her.

Smith says she was born into the Democratic Party and voted for Barack Obama twice. For the 2016 Ohio primary, she said, she even voted for Bernie Sanders to be the party’s nominee. But when it came time to pick a president, she voted with her neighbors in Ashtabula County, helping it swing from a 12-point victory for Obama in 2012 to a 19-point win for Trump.

Smith is among the scores of people I interviewed in 2016 for my book, “The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics,” along with my co-writer Brad Todd. In it, we examined the unique coalition of voters who helped sweep Trump into office.

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Broken down into seven archetypes across 10 pivotal counties, the book pinpointed both lifelong traditional Republicans, who should have broken ranks with their party because of Trump’s brash style but ultimately did not, and Democrats who felt disconnected from their party or its nominee, Hillary Clinton, and instead sided with the billionaire from New York.

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