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Trump Voters In Pennsylvania Say They Are Pleased With Presidency So Far


Voters in southwest Pennsylvania were among the most crucial in President Trump's rise to the presidency. It's coal country, and the president's pledge to boost that industry was a big part of it. But his background as a businessman who is not afraid to insult or throw a verbal punch also helped. Now, a year into the Trump presidency, NPR's Don Gonyea has been out talking to those voters.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: At Hot Rod's BBQ in Waynesburg, Pa., you can get a draft beer anytime for a dollar.

I couldn't tell if you were open.

ELIZABETH COGAR: Yeah, we are.

GONYEA: How are you?

COGAR: Well, the bartender will treat you very well.

GONYEA: OK. Twenty-one-year-old waitress Elizabeth Cogar greets me as I walk inside. We chat while she waits for the dinner rush. I ask her about President Trump. She's a supporter.

COGAR: Because he's a straightforward person. He doesn't sugarcoat anything.

GONYEA: But she also has some advice for the president. Calm down on Twitter.

COGAR: Like how he was posting about North Korea and how they have bombs but his button's bigger. And so I don't think that was appropriate.

GONYEA: Yes, Cogar supports Trump but says she's not as big of a fan as she was a year ago because of the drama and the distractions.

COGAR: If he could calm down on social media and his speeches and stuff, I feel like the country would want to work with him as well instead of trying to work against him. Like, we all live here. We all try to live comfortably. We're all just trying to provide for our families. So, like, let's find a median where we can work together.

GONYEA: Even that level of criticism makes Cogar unusual among people I talked to here. Forty-eight-year-old Paul Walker works in a coal mine. He called me on his cellphone as he drove to his shift.

PAUL WALKER: Right now I'm in Waynesburg, Pa. I'm driving on 21 West.

GONYEA: Walker he says he likes Trump's combative approach and his Twitter feed. But what's most important, he says, is that Obama-era regulations on the coal industry are being rolled back.

WALKER: We were at a period where we were only running the coal production three days a week. Now we're back up to six to seven days production. So yeah, we're all pretty pumped up about what's been going on.

GONYEA: Walker acknowledged that there are a lot of reasons that production is up. It's an international market place with many complicating factors. But he gives Trump plenty of credit. Now to the city of Monroeville, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Len Young owns a small landscaping business. He says he's an original member of the Tea Party and likes Donald Trump more than ever these days.

LEN YOUNG: He is the way he is. You have to accept him. The reporters who lambaste him and just have such vile hate in their heart - they're the ones who have to change, not Trump.

GONYEA: Sure, there are some ups and downs for hardcore Trump backers. I talked to Young twice over the past two weeks. The first was when the president met with a group of senators and seemed to be embracing the Democrats' proposal on a possible path to citizenship for the so-called DREAMers.

YOUNG: I was very disappointed. Right now the tone is not where I would want it to be.

GONYEA: But a day later when Trump is alleged to have uttered the now infamous vulgarity regarding immigration and the deal was breaking up, Len Young's disappointment was gone.

YOUNG: There's a good chance that the right thing is going to happen.

GONYEA: Now to a coffee shop in Mt. Lebanon. Twenty-eight-year-old real estate agent Anissa Coury supports Trump and has some advice to anyone who will listen. Just ignore the noise, and focus on the accomplishments. She points to the Dow hitting 26,000 and the new tax bill and...

ANISSA COURY: Unemployment rates are around 4 percent, the lowest unemployment for African-Americans, I believe. So the things that he's doing in my opinion are nothing short of miraculous - and a Supreme Court justice obviously.

GONYEA: There will be an early electoral test of Trump's strength in this part of Pennsylvania - a special congressional election in March. It's a seat currently held by the GOP in a district Trump carried by nearly 20 points. Republicans and Democrats will be looking for any signs of cracks. Don Gonyea, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.