US Election 2016

Trump fans: Steadfast amid deluge of negative press

Trump supporters rally in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania Image copyright John Moore
Image caption Trump supporters rally in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

There has been a spate of negative news stories about Donald Trump in the last 48 hours. But do his supporters care?

While it has been true for months that Trump receives far more media attention than any other candidate for president in the race so far, this week the pace of stories seems to have reached a new crescendo, with a decidedly negative tone.

It began with Trump's ongoing feud with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of US Army Capt Humayun Khan, who died in 2004 in a suicide bomb attack.

After Trump implied that Ghazala Khan was not allowed to speak at the Democratic National Convention because she is a Muslim woman, Republican Senator John McCain released a rebuke of the candidate, saying Trump does not have an "unfettered licence to defame those who are the best among us".

The next day, Trump called his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton "the devil". He also refused to endorse both McCain and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. The same day, the first Republican congressman publicly announced he would be voting for Clinton.

Then there was the bizarre moment when Trump asked that a crying baby be removed from the room at one of his campaign events.

Image copyright Alex Wong
Image caption Trump accepts a Purple Heart medal from a veteran at the same event where he twice addressed a crying baby in the room

Journalists seem to be agog at the pace of the controversies, suggesting the campaign is at a crisis point.

"The worst fortnight in the history of the GOP," wrote a conservative columnist in the Washington Post.

"Trump allies plot candidate intervention after disastrous 48 hours," wrote NBC.

The question is, does Trump's base of support care about the controversies and the condemnation?

Donald "Whitey" Taylor, who is caravanning around the country selling Trump T-shirts and hats, says absolutely not - and that sales haven't slowed a bit.

"They're trying to attack him on every angle. All it does is turn people toward him," said Taylor from a highway somewhere in Tennessee. "The people who were undecided, they see how much more scrutiny he gets than Hillary and you can see how slanted all the news is. It's very obvious."

Taylor also has serious doubts about whether or not Trump's comments about the Khans are hurting his support among veterans, judging by the number of military discounts he has been giving.

Image copyright MOLLY RILEY
Image caption Trump fans have always been skeptical of the media and establishment conservatives

Joe Bryant, a retired Army reservist and Trump supporter in Martinsville, Virginia, says that while Trump has not lost his vote, he wishes the candidate could pivot better off of the attacks on him.

"I hate to see someone exploited like the captain's parents were exploited," said Bryant. "I would have said, 'I'm sorry for your loss. I have nothing but the most admiration for all Purple Heart recipients, but my thing is, I didn't vote on this war - Hillary Clinton did.'

"I would have turned the table on her. But he can't do that. I don't know why he can't."

Trump enthusiasts have always been sceptical of both the media and the Republican establishment. For Bill Hartmann, a home repairman in Wyandotte, Michigan, this is hardly a crisis point for Trump. Instead, these past few days demonstrate Trump's appeal.

"Trump is definitely changing the playbook in politics. That's why the pundits and pollsters can't figure him out," he said. "I think the average voter is sick and tired of the top [Republican] brass. John McCain is being politically correct."

Loyal Trump supporters do not speak for the entire electorate - or even the entire Republican party - and indeed, the GOP nominee is slipping in the most recent polling. Trump's own running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, broke with the nominee and endorsed Ryan, while Trump's close advisor Newt Gingrich warned that Trump "cannot win the presidency operating the way he is now".

Nevertheless, at Trump's most recent event in Daytona, Florida, the crowd packed the bleachers behind him as he spoke, as enthusiastic as ever.

At least on the surface, all appeared well in Trump country.