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Trump sits out Indiana Senate primary, and his supporters are split

Trump sits out Indiana Senate primary, and his supporters are split


The farm animals on the Henderson farm are pets, not moneymakers, so don't be offended by the barnyard humor.

One of the cows, who likes to race alongside Beth Henderson in her John Deere Gator, is named Big Mac.

In the barn, mixing it up with the alpacas, is a solo pig: Kevin Bacon.

There are crops on the property, one reason Beth is having second thoughts about President Donald Trump.

"We are in are involved in an agriculture business, and yeah, tariffs is a big deal," she said in an interview last week.

But it is more than policy.

"Well I think he's working on the security of the country, economics," Henderson says when asked what she likes about the President.

"I don't like his outbursts and his -- inappropriateness -- probably and his scruples. ... His values and just how he's so blasé about some of his behaviors. And it just doesn't bother him."

She's soured on Trump but her politics are still animated by the belief that attracted her to Trump in 2016: Washington is broken, and career politicians are to blame.

Her husband, Terry, briefly joined Indiana's GOP Senate field but dropped out because a businessman with deeper pockets jumped in. The Hendersons now support that businessman, Mike Braun, and Beth says the sentiment driving that support came up a lot during her husband's campaigning.

"Terry would stand up and introduce himself and say 'I'm an outsider, I'm a businessman' and people would say, 'We need that. We really need that. We need something new. We don't need career politicians.' And it was really building, the momentum was building. And you could see there was a true desire to have new blood."

Braun did serve in the state legislature, where his vote for a gas tax hike made him suspect among some conservatives. But Braun says the vote was for a GOP infrastructure plan. In a campaign of gimmicks and insults, he gets attention by traveling with cardboard cutouts of his opponents -- GOP US Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, asking voters if they can tell who's who.

Trump has not endorsed in the primary, so his supporters are found in different camps. To talk to them is to be reminded of the anti-establishment mood that fueled his 2016 race, but also to see, even in ruby red Indiana, some cracks in the Trump 2016 coalition.

Raju Chinthala has no beef with Braun or Messer, but backs Rokita because the congressman also served as secretary of state -- proving he can win statewide.

Chinthala is a geriatric speech pathologist who also has helped the state expand business partnerships with his native India. He shakes his head at all the spending in Washington, and wants all Republicans to remember their promises. Though he initially supported Jeb Bush before backing Trump in 2016, he is solid with the President now.

"National security, I think he is doing a great job. The economy, he's doing a great job."

Every now and then a tweet makes him cringe, but Chinthala overall is in the let-Trump-be-Trump camp.

"I don't really think he cares if it harms or hurts him or hurts his re-election," Chinthala said. "I think people are liking it."

Henderson and Chinthala have no complaints when it comes to the economy. But other Trump voters encountered on a pre-primary visit to Indiana served to remind us a remarkably low unemployment rate doesn't mean everyone who wants a job has one or one that pays the bills -- especially compared to the jobs they've lost that have been shipped out of the country.

Renee Elliott voted for Trump after he, as a candidate, pushed Carrier to drop plans to ship most of its Indiana jobs to Mexico. But once the glare faded, the company did send many of the jobs across the border.

"He got a lot of votes," Elliott said.

"Do you feel burned?"

"Yeah, I feel burned for a number of reasons."

Elliott is still out of work. She had been leaning toward Messer in the Senate primary, but entered the final day undecided because it angered her that the final debate was dominated by pledges of loyalty to a President she believes gave up on her once he got into office.

"He's not Superman. He can't save everybody," she said. "But he could have stopped this. He was so vocal and so adamant."

Carrier is still open, but with fewer jobs. A Rexnord plant that also got candidate Trump's attention is closed, its jobs sent to Mexico.

Brian Bousum worked at the plant with his son, and was 11 weeks short of pension eligibility when it shuttered. He ignored his union and voted for the President, even though he was fairly certain then that his job would soon be gone.

"I voted for President Obama twice but I will say this about President Trump -- at least he brought it to the table."

Bousum makes $9 an hour less now, but is grateful for his new work as a plumber.

When he hears about prospects for a trade dispute with China, Bousum says perhaps the President's talk of tariffs will ultimately bring concessions from other trading partners.

But he sees a downsized Carrier, a closed Rexnord and other industrial strains, and he admits one side effect is less interest in politics.

He is skipping Tuesday's primary. The negative tone was a turnoff, he says, and he has "kind of lost faith" in the idea that it matters who gets sent to Washington.

That doesn't mean he has given up on the President. But he is clearly more skeptical.

"He's a politician now just like the rest of them, as he's saying one thing and doing another," Bousum said. "Today, if you were going to ask me, 'Do you support President Trump?' I would say yes, but I can't tell you that I would tomorrow. It just depends on what he gets done."

"I'll tell you, the first time I ever find out ... he was just kidding about saving American jobs or bringing industry back here, then of course I wouldn't support him."



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