An in-depth look at President Trump's first 100 days
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Among those living in the second ring of suburbs outside the cities, the president gets a job approval rating between 53 percent and 59 percent, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey.
Last fall, just weeks before Election Day, I traveled the old Lincoln Highway, from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rockies, to learn the attitudes of voters who lived miles from the off-ramps of the main interstates and coastal America. Known as US 30, the mostly two-lane highway connects 13 states and 128 counties between Times Square and San Francisco. It was on that trip, especially in the Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Iowa, that a realization unfolded: Many had already decided they were not voting for Hillary Clinton. These voters appeared to defy polls and conventional wisdom. If you believed what they said, it quickly became evident that this corner of the country was going to help elect the first true non-politician in our 240-year history — one who had never held public office nor served as a general — to the presidency. Today, almost 100 days after President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, many Americans still remain suspended at the stroke of midnight, Nov. 8, 2016. On that day, those who voted for him were giddy and optimistic, and those who never saw it coming felt disbelief and repulsion, refusing to concede that he won. And now? “Nothing has changed,” Rob Hughes, a registered Democrat and retired businessman from Bulger, Pa., whom I met on my cross-country trip, told me last week. “Well, that’s probably not entirely true. I think I like him more now that he is the president.” As I went back to the people on US 30 to ask them how they feel about the man they voted for, Hughes’ sentiment rang true.
“He is doing exactly what we wanted and expected him to do,” said A.J Hamons. “Yes, there have been setbacks, but anyone intelligent would understand that was to be expected. He is not a politician, and I had no expectation of him to be anything but non-conventional.” Many people I spoke to were still undecided right up until Election Day. Michelle Barnett, who was outside her home in Timnath, Colo., tending to her decorative gourds last fall when we first met, was one of them. Although her husband, David, with whom she co-owns a small outdoor equipment and parts store in Fort Collins, was all in for Trump, Michelle was not. But when it came down to it, “At the very last minute, I pulled the trigger for Trump,” Barnett said. “I just could not abide voting for those corrupt Clintons.”
Dr. Joseph Chiaro and his wife, Donna, were very reluctant Trump supporters when I met them at breakfast at the beautifully restored Nagle-Warren Mansion in Cheyenne, Wyo., last fall. So much so, I wondered if both of them would ultimately vote for Trump. They did. The son of immigrants and a retired pediatrician who still works part-time in the medical industry, Chiaro was more staunchly opposed to Clinton than he was for Trump. So was his wife. Much has changed since their initial reluctance last October. “I am 100 percent pleased with his performance so far,” he said. “Yes, he has made some mistakes, but they are so minor that they are insignificant,” he said. “The president has us heading in the right direction. I had my hesitations about him, but they quickly disappeared once he took office.”
Approval ratings for Trump have been abysmally low. In late March, Gallup put it at 35 percent — the worst for any new president in the first months of his administration. Yet that doesn’t tell the whole story. Among those living in the second ring of suburbs outside the cities, or the exurbs or the third and fourth rings that make up great big swaths of rural America, the president gets a job approval rating between 53 percent and 59 percent, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey conducted at the same time as the Gallup poll. Overall, it’s too early to critique Trump. While the 100-day mark, which we will officially pass on Saturday, is usually a symbolic point at which modern presidents are assessed, it really is just that — a mark. Journalists began the tradition with Franklin D. Roosevelt, when the country was suffering under the Great Depression, to give an early indication of his progress. Like FDR, Trump has taken the country in a completely different direction from his predecessor. It is still unclear whether his break toward a new philosophy of governing will be successful — but, if you listen to his supporters, they have his back. For now.
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