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Sun-Times political reporter discovers a (mostly) friendly space for Trump in Elkhart

President Donald Trump speaks at the North Side Gymnasium in Elkhart, Ind., Thursday, May 10, 2018, during a campaign rally. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

President Donald Trump speaks at the North Side Gymnasium in Elkhart, Ind., Thursday, May 10, 2018, during a campaign rally. | AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

On May 10, 2018, President Trump traveled to Elkhart, Indiana – about 100 miles east of Chicago.

Basking in the cheers of thousands of supporters wearing his red campaign hats, Trump hailed his decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and his tough stance on trade deals, appealing to the region’s manufacturing base. He reissued his campaign pledge to build a border wall with Mexico, telling the crowd the work had started despite opposition from Democrats.

And he celebrated the return of three Americans who had been held captive in North Korea, saying: “We welcomed them back home the proper way.”

But for a onetime political novice who ran as an outsider, Trump played the role of party champion ahead of midterm elections that typically haunt the party that holds the White House.

RELATED:  Hoosiers welcome President Trump: “He wants our freedom to go forward.”

Tag along as Chicago Sun-Times political reporter Tina Sfondeles and multimedia journalist Maria de la Guardia check out the rally – not to cover the President’s remarks – but to take the temperature of Midwest voters. What motivates the people who are showing up to see Trump? 

Video by Maria de la Guardia and editing by Julia Dourgarian | Chicago Sun-Times 

Transcript of interviews

[00:00:00] SFONDELES: I generally cover the governor. I cover elections. I cover the whole [Illinois] General Assembly. But today we’re actually driving to Elkhart, Indiana, to cover President Trump and V.P. Mike Pence at a campaign rally. .

[00:00:19] (Sound From Trump at podium) My goal is to talk to people, to supporters outside of the rally. I just kind of want to understand. We’ve seen a lot of things are on the news in the past couple months just the extent of support that the president still has, just kind of uncovering what it is that they support about what he’s doing, what they don’t want to see and in terms of protesters what they’re unhappy about. My goal is to try to show both sides of a Trump rally. 

[00:00:48] (Walking) Are you interested in talking to us about your support? .

[00:00:58] No

[00:01:07] You’re not. Alright. Try again.

[00:01:08] What are your priorities in Indiana that you want to see?

[00:01:00] Gun control for the automatic weapons for sure. I still believe in the right to bear arms. But like our forefathers meant, not automatic assault weapons. A single shotgun and a pistol you know for hunting and for your personal protection, that’s it. None of this assault weapons crap. It’s ridiculous. .

[00:01:18] So you think there’s a lot, too much emphasis on his personal issues and with Twitter?

[00:01:22] Yeah, that’s personal stuff. Let’s run the country. Not let’s worry about our personal stuff .

[00:01:26] If you kind of scanned the crowd, there are probably a million of us standing out here [compared to] 40 picketers. And we’re just here to say how much we are blessed to live in this great country of the United States. And so grateful for all the freedoms and the blessings and the privileges we have.

Supporters wait to get into President Donald Trump's rally in Elkhart, Ind. Photo by Tina Sfondeles.

Supporters wait to get into President Donald Trump’s rally in Elkhart, Ind. | Photo by Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

[00:01:44] What time did you guys get here? .

[00:01:44] Maybe one o’clock.

[00:01:44] So are you a President Trump supporter?

[00:01:48] Yes I am. I’m not a Republican, and I’m not a Democrat. I just wanted in my lifetime to be able to see a president of the United States face to face.

[00:01:57] Do you feel like you’re in the minority here in Elkhart? It’s a pretty conservative town. Or do you think there’s a good amount of people who feel the same as you do?

[00:02:04] I think there are a lot of people that feel the same way. I mean they’re just not standing out here because they might be a little afraid. They don’t want to get yelled at. And it’s not worth the time.

[00:02:18] (Woman protesting) I’m with the Chicago Sun-Times. Do you mind if we talk to you? .

Demonstrators protest near the site of President Donald Trump's rally in Elkhart, Ind. Photo by Tina Sfondeles.

Demonstrators protest near the site of President Donald Trump’s rally in Elkhart, Ind. | Photo by Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

[00:02:28] I was feeling a little bit fearful on my way walking here because I’m kind of outing myself. And then I saw two gay men walking, crossing Bristol Street and I said, “Wait a minute, I’m worried about my danger approaching the Trump rally. Here’s two men who are openly expressing their love for each other in front of all these people.” So I thought well I can. If they can be brave, I can be brave. .

(Chanting inside the rally “USA, USA”)


Working the Story logoWe invite you to watch other segments of “Working the Story” from the Chicago Sun-Times

Episode #1: Working the Story: The Donald and Dina Markham Mystery

Episode #2: Working the Story: What it’s been like covering Loyola Ramblers, Sister Jean

Episode #3: Working the Story: ‘It’s hard to grasp the impact he had on a nation’

Episode #4: Working the Story: How the Sun-Times got the scoop on ‘Dirty Schools’