The 2016 Presidential Election brought a strong showing for President Trump in several parts of Texas. One of the regions with the largest turnouts for Trump, in the state and the nation, was in the Big Country.
A number of voters at the West Texas Fair and Rodeo last month shared their opinions on the presidential election. Retiree Jim West described the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden as “crazy as a runover dog”. And when he was asked who he would vote for, he responded enthusiastically, “Trump! There ain’t but one candidate as far as I’m concerned.”
Jim and his wife Sandy paused amidst the flashing lights and rumbling rides to describe their support for the president. “I think it’s a little stronger. I just feel like he’s the one that can lead us better than what we’ve got runnin’ against him.”
They say they trust Trump with the economy. “We need someone like Trump to create jobs for the people who need to go back to work, support their families,” Sandy said, before Jim continued her thought, “And bring some of our jobs back home. Get it away from overseas.”
Trump seems to have grown on other Taylor County voters too. McMurry University Political Science Professor Paul Fabrizio says local voters didn’t really take the Trump candidacy seriously early-on in 2016, favoring Ted Cruz in the primary.
“When I would talk to candidates, when I would talk to ordinary voters, in 2015-through summer 2016, they would roll their eyes at the idea of Donald Trump as their president,” Fabrizio said, sitting in his McMurry University office one morning before class. “They just had difficulty imagining it. They didn’t see him as a viable choice. They were concerned about him, in some cases, I would argue they were even embarrassed by him.”
But once the Republicans officially nominated Donald Trump as their candidate, local voters got on board.
“Some would say ‘I will support the nominee of the Republican Party’ and that’s all they would say. They wouldn’t go any farther than that. By the November Election, the support was really solid for Donald Trump.” Fabrizio said.
Trump ultimately claimed 73% of the vote in Taylor County, more than the statewide total of 52%. Fabrizio says what started as anti-Hillary Clinton sentiment in 2016 has morphed into strong support for Donald Trump today.
Back at the fair, Liz Whan and Cher Prescott sent their teenagers ahead to the rides, while they stopped long enough to share who they’ll vote for. “You wanna say?” Liz asked Cher. When Cher delined, Liz enthusiastically answered, “I’ll say. Trump! I feel he’s done a great job with our economy, minus this little COVID.”
Political Scientist Fabrizio says Trump’s been able to connect with Texas’s rural voters, by speaking the way politicians usually don’t. “Donald Trump speaks to voters here on an emotional, gut level. And even though they have differences of opinion with him on certain policy issues, they have difference of opinion in terms of his style of leadership, he speaks to their unspoken concerns. And that, I think, is the root of Donald Trump’s support here.”
Concerns like immigration, abortion. And several people said they were glad he moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But Trump hasn’t won-over everyone in the Big Country.
One voter, who only wanted to be identified as “Stanley”, says he didn’t vote for either major party candidate in 2016. He describes himself as a “Never Trumper”. “I was appalled with the behavior of the candidate even before he was president. I don’t condone that type of behavior and that type of action,” Stanley said as he stood between a carnival game and a noisy kid’s ride. “You can perform the office of the president and still maintain a public sensibility. And lies. I don’t put up with that many lies. I know they all lie, but not to that degree. He’s pathological at this point.”
Stanley was wearing an American Flag scarf on his head, and holding yard signs for U.S. Senator John Cornyn and U.S. Representative Jodey Arrington that he’d just gotten. He said he’s disappointed these two Republicans have stood so strongly with Trump. “For me my party doesn’t exist right now,” Stanley said. “It’s more of a Trump party. I hope that’ll change over time. But I am not a Trump fan at all. But I am a Republican, and I’m a registered Republican, and I’ll vote for the Republican ticket. I just won’t vote for Trump.”
There’s no polling for Taylor County. But campaign contributions tell part of the story. Donations to Trump have more than tripled from $76,000 in 2016, to $262,000 this election.
Brendan Glavin is a senior data analyst with the Campaign Finance Institute. He says part of the jump could be because Trump continued to fundraise after he won. “No president in recent memory has raised money for their reelection during the first two years of being in office. That is something that’s unique to what Trump did.” Glavin notes Trump has only picked up another hundred individual donors. “There’s 2,500 contributions. So it really indicates, not just the support, but continued support. People who are willing to give, not once, but four or five times, or perhaps more shows these donors have stood behind him.”
Political analyst Fabrizio says he expects support for Trump to be similar to what it was four years ago. “This is rock-solid Donald Trump support. This is his country,” Fabrizio said.
One thing that will change is the number of voters. Registrations in the county reached a new high of 83,823, and the elections administrator predicts record overall turnout.