WARREN, Mich. (CN) – After a performance nothing short of vulgar at the Republican presidential debate, Donald Trump greeted a crowd of 4,000 supporters Friday at a Michigan community college.
While voters had little to say about Trump’s hand size, or the other measurement to which the GOP front-runner boasted about the night before at the Fox Theater, they said they liked Trump’s honesty.
“I think he speaks from the heart,” said Halina Napieral, of Walled Lake, outside the rally Trump’s campaign hosted this morning at Macomb Community College.
Calling the other candidates “so wishy-washy,” Napieral said she’s going with her gut.
“Have you ever had that good vibe inside?” the voter asked. “That’s what I have about him.”
Like the reality-television star himself, Trumpeters gathered this cold and snowy morning did not seem bothered by the condemnation their candidate has garnered from GOP establishment.
Just hours before the debate, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee from the 2012 election cycle, called Trump a “fraud” who is “playing the American public for suckers.”
The barbs held little sway for Kim Jarvis, of Lenox Township.
“Honestly, anything he says that’s not going to affect me and my decision,” she said, noting that Romney “couldn’t close the deal himself.”
Trump’s debate performance made a prophet of Michigan Democratic Chairman Brandon Dillon, who warned reporters Wednesday that they would see a “food fight onstage.”
Predicting that none of the real issues affecting America would be on the debate menu, Dillon hosted a preview on the eve of the debate featuring three speakers with perspectives on Detroit and Flint politics.
“We are facing a crisis in the Detroit Public Schools,” said Dawn Wilson Clark, whose son has gone through five teachers this year alone in the city’s school system.
Clark blamed the situation on Gov. Rick “Snyder running the state like a business,” but many of the voters at Friday’s rally highlighted Trump’s business acumen as what drew their support.
“I don’t think our politicians can make good deals,” Lapeer voter Ernie Guinn said. “I think he is a dealmaker.”
At the state Democrats’ event Wednesday, meanwhile, Flint resident Desiree Duell said the priority of profits over people is why her city’s water supply was poisoned.
“We don’t need more Band-Aids and one-time fixes,” said Duell, who drove two hours through a snow storm to attend the press conference. “What we need is a holistic approach.”
Detroit native Dorothea Thomas speculated that the Republican candidates had little to say about the issues that matter to Michiganders because its voters are predominately black and poor.
Voters at the rally Friday saw it differently, however, saying there is only one candidate offering change.
“The main appeal with Donald Trump is that everyone else is owned,” Dave Frey, of Willis, said. “They constantly pass laws that are controlled. They are all liars. He can’t be controlled.”
Trenton voter Ron Collard agreed that Trump’s independent wealth means he is “not listening to the lobbyists.”
Patrick Doty, of Troy, echoed this sentiment, saying Trump “is speaking for the people, not for the politicians.”
“I think those politicians are mad that he is telling the truth finally,” Doty said. “They don’t want to lose their money.”
Voters at the rally had little trouble, it seemed, reconciling Trump as both underdog and front-runner, bully and victim.
“I just think that everyone likes to pick on him,” Walled Lake resident Napieral said. “They pick on him. They don’t pick on others. “
Complaining about the tide of political correctness in this country, Lenox Township’s Jarvis applauded Trump for “not walking on eggshells.”
“As goofy as he is he is, he is a breath of fresh air,” Jarvis said. “Some of the stuff he says, we are all thinking, but afraid to alienate somebody. He is not afraid to speak his mind. He crosses all the lines. He has supporters in all walks of life.”
Looking at the other candidates, Jarvis called Ohio Gov. John Kasich a more qualified nominee.
“But he is not getting any press because he is not being ridiculous,” Jarvis said.
With the Michigan Primary set for March 8, the Democratic candidates will hold their own debate in Detroit on Sunday. Party official Dillon promised that this debate unlike the Republicans’ will focus on the issues.
“Frankly it is an embarrassment,” Dillon said. “Not just to the Republicans, but to the country. That you have folks running for the highest office in the land talking about the size of someone’s hands and whether or not someone wet themselves behind the stage of a debate performed.”
Referencing Trump’s campaign slogan, Dillon said “insults are not what will make America great again.”
“This is not a debate that is worthy of the American people,” he added.
Duell, the Flint native at the state Democrats’ event Wednesday, emphasized the failure by any of the Republican candidates to make stops in Flint.
Amid the political frenzy this week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to expand the Headstart program in the Flint area.
“Early education is one of the most important things we can do to help children overcome the effects of lead,” said Nicole Lurie, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response in a statement.
Lurie explained that the funding boost “will allow Flint’s existing Head Start programs to provide enhanced and expanded services, including additional classrooms, home visiting support, and transportation for families who need to visit the doctor.”
The funding comes from a onetime emergency grant of $3.6 million.
In addition to expanding the school year by three weeks, the funds aim to increase classroom availability, parent-education activities, and staff training relative to lead poisoning and toxic stress.
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