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Trump's Rhetoric Influences Some Early Voters


Early voting has been underway for weeks in some places. Millions of votes have already been cast. But today is the big payoff. It is Election Day. Today, we get results. President Trump has been campaigning aggressively, as have high-profile Democrats, including former President Obama. NPR's Don Gonyea has been on the road, as well, talking to voters about their concerns for what might happen when the votes have all been counted.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: In Pennsylvania, Democrats were stunned in 2016 watching as their state was key in putting Donald Trump over the top. Now come the midterms and another chance.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Decency is on the ballot in 2018, and it all starts with you.

GONYEA: This weekend rally in Bucks County was part of the Democrats get out the vote blitz. Seventy-two-year-old Elly McNelis was there. She works as a school crossing guard. She's hoping that the Democrats take the U.S. House, maybe even the Senate. Her worries?

ELLY MCNELIS: What I fear if we lose the House and if we lose the Senate - God forbid that - we will continue to see more of the hatred, the anger, the volatility that's come around. I mean, I've seen it in my own neighborhood, anger of people that don't like you because you don't agree with 45.

GONYEA: Forty-five, of course, is the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, who is the motivating force for so many Democrats this election. Twenty-five-year-old Jessica Maria Moreno lives in Charlotte, N.C. She calls Trump's rhetoric, especially on immigration, dangerous.

JESSICA MARIA MORENO: In a way I'm, like, numb to what is out there. It's a way to protect myself from, like, breaking down. I'm just really surprised that people actually follow this and people agree with what this man is saying. So I'm kind of shocked.

GONYEA: Of course, it's just the opposite for Trump's loyal supporters. In the suburbs just outside Charlotte, 64-year-old Rudy Esquivel sits in his living room and says his hope for today is that Trump wins enough support to just keep doing what he's been doing.

RUDY ESQUIVEL: To me, there's about five issues - jobs, jobs, jobs. And then there is a strong foreign policy, which we have. And basically, this crackdown on who comes here. I think it should be merit based.

GONYEA: He emigrated from Cuba and supports what he calls Trump's effort to control U.S. borders. Fifty-two-year-old Lauren Kousombos is another strong Trump backer. She works at a car dealership outside Philadelphia.

LAUREN KOUSOMBOS: What we hope happens? We hope that the Republicans win both the Senate and the Congress and governors, and then Trump can get his stuff pushed through.

GONYEA: So far, these have all been voters whose loyalties have not changed. They're either with Trump or opposed to him. Not so for Patrick McCullen, a truck driver in Lorain County, Ohio. He voted for Trump. He had high hopes. No more. McCullen is an early voter who says this year he went with Democrats right down the ballot. He says Trump's bullying and overall demeanor got to be too much.

Has Trump been a disappointment?


GONYEA: How do you...

MCCULLEN: Yeah. I've came to thinking, oh, he might do something, to going like, what are you doing, to like, are you kidding me? (Laughter).

GONYEA: As for his hopes, McCullen says he wants the Democrats to do well today.

What are you looking for from the Democrats? Push back against Trump, or...

MCCULLEN: Well, you know, not so much pushback against him, but more just doing what they're supposed to do.

GONYEA: He says it's a simple request. Today we find out how widespread that sentiment is. Don Gonyea, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.