‘Keep out the Mexicans and al-Qaeda’: with Donald Trump and his fans at the Iowa State Fair

His opponents say that his campaign is just an extension of his reality TV career, but The Donald has a real ground game

22 August 2015

9:00 AM

22 August 2015

9:00 AM

 The Iowa State Fair

‘Donnnaaallldd!!! Donnnaaaaallldd!!!’ Donald Trump was surrounded by fans. He looked happy. He took a bite out of a pork chop on a stick — eating one is a campaign ritual for every politician visiting the Iowa State Fair — and raised his arm in salute. ‘We love you,’ a woman shouted. Someone else yelled: ‘Save our country! Save America!’ No other Republican candidate visiting the fair — no candidate from either party — has generated such crowds and such excitement. ‘I touched him,’ said one woman running over to her friends. ‘I got a selfie.’

Nothing of substance was being discussed in the eye of this storm, marked by Trump’s red baseball cap embroidered with the words ‘Make America Great Again’. This was as much like the visit of a TV celebrity — which Trump is — as that of a politician running for office. But on the fringe of the crowd, a knot of men were having a debate. ‘I’m a Trump supporter,’ said 68-year-old John Wood, bow-legged in his shorts. ‘I spent 27 months in Vietnam and I hate what’s goin’ on in this country… he says things that maybe aren’t popular but we’ve been in trouble for a long time by tryin’ to be politically correct. We need to say: that’s the way it is, plain and simple.’ I asked the group what they liked most about Trump’s platform. ‘The wall,’ said one: ‘Keep out the Mexicans and al-Qaeda.’

The Donald, as the billionaire property magnate is known, had descended in a helicopter a couple of hours earlier. Two dozen supporters were waiting to see him land. I asked them about the incendiary language he used about women and about immigrants. After the Republican primary debate, Mr Trump famously declared that his questioner, Fox’s Megyn Kelly, had ‘blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her, wherever’. People I spoke to generally hoped he would tone it down when he got the Oval Office. But on his main issue, immigration, they agreed with him that those coming to the US illegally from Mexico were predominantly ‘criminals, drug dealers, rapists’.

‘I want to feel safe in my own country,’ said Patty Davies, waiting to give her twin daughters a ride on the helicopter, ‘and the way things are going, it’s getting less and less safe.’ Jeb Brien, an athletic 61-year-old in a ‘Team Trump’ T-shirt, said: ‘Mexico’s smart. They’re sending the people they don’t want up to here and we’re takin’ ’em.’ For Mr Brien, as for others, the other big issue was the economy: high taxes, the national debt, and the export of American jobs overseas. ‘I was raised as a Democrat, worked two jobs. You know we were stable. People worked. People were proud of Iowa. I’ve got kids… the thing that scares me, we’re not going to have a country for them, or their kids.’

Mr Trump stepped down from his helicopter in cream slacks, a blue blazer and white golf shoes. He gave a press conference. Apart from agreeing that he was prepared to spend a billion dollars of his own money to get elected, there was nothing new. The answers were nearly identical to those in the previous three or four appearances I’d seen online. But he took question after question, while the children he was giving helicopter rides to waited in the blistering heat. He seemed to crave attention more than any professional politician I’ve seen. Trump has been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder by one author (in all seriousness, not as a term of political abuse). He has a habit of dropping little boasts into the middle of whatever argument he happens to be making. From this press conference alone, we had: ‘I understand psychology’ [on Jeb Bush’s relationship with his brother]; ‘Nobody played the game better than I did.’ [lobbying]; ‘Nobody has more experience dealing with politicians than I’; ‘Trump builds walls. I build walls’; ‘I’ve had great relationships’ [with foreign leaders]; ‘I’m leading in every poll: the little ones, the big ones’ [true]; ‘I’m all over the world. I’m building in China’; ‘I have some of the great assets, Turnberry in Scotland, Doral in Miami [both hotels]. Trump Tower, 57th and Fifth [in New York]’; and ‘I make $400 million a year.’

His opponents say his presidential bid is an extension of his reality TV career, which he must know will not last. But Trump is building a serious ground game in Iowa (the state that is first to choose the delegates who nominate presidential candidates). The co-chair of his Iowa campaign is Tana Goertz, a finalist in his TV show The Apprentice ten years ago. She was getting ‘400 emails a day’ from people who wanted to volunteer in the campaign, she said. ‘I’m doing Apprentice-like challenges to find out who’s the best of the best of these volunteers.’

Tana was the No. 1 saleswoman for Mary Kay cosmetics out of a staff of 6,000. She won her place on The Apprentice with an audition tape showing her cold-calling men working in car showrooms and selling them gift baskets of make-up. ‘I’m using my business skills, my marketing skills, my promotional skills to market the product, which is Donald Trump,’ she told me. ‘I’m selling him as a brilliant man, as a leader, as a businessman, as a negotiator. People love his toughness, his strength.’

Some of those I met wearing Trump T-shirts confessed, when asked, that they hadn’t really made up their minds which way they would vote. They were just there for the spectacle. But The Donald has tapped into a deep well of anger about Washington, distrust of conventional politicians, and fear about the future. His poll lead seems incredibly durable. As Republicans know, the Democratic party won the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections. If the Republicans are going to win this time, they need a Hispanic strategy and a strategy for women. The question is whether either of those can be viable if the Donald show continues much longer.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Paul Wood is a BBC correspondent.

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Show comments
  • Jackthesmilingblack

    To all those that claim it is not possible to build a high east-to-west wall on the US-Mexican border, I say this: The Great Wall of China.

    • freddiethegreat

      Berlin wall and East-West Division. Transvaal electrified fence. Hadrian’s wall. Israel’s security wall.

      • PNWman

        I’m curious, do you lock your door?

    • sidor

      The problem may be solved easily if employing an illegal will be a criminal offence. Or providing a social assistance to an illegal. Or providing housing. No money – they stop coming.

      • PNWman

        You are correct of course. Our political class refuses to employ E-Verify.

    • johnhenry

      How do you explain the Mongol invasion of China?

      • TomV

        According to the Chinese Genghis Khan was Chinese.

      • Ken

        The mongols went around the wall.

      • Gilbert White

        Ubeatable soldiers who used terror tactics to perfection!.

    • Grace Ironwood

      Or, indeed, any wall.

  • stephen

    this experience at the iowa state fair could have been written any time in the past 50 years iowa was a great america 1st state up to december 1941

  • jim

    What is wrong with wanting to know exactly who is crossing your borders?.Trump makes sense to me..and his campaign is a laugh. I’m surprised how much I like the guy.

    • WTF

      And most in America agree with him.

      • Terry Field

        AN he gives dem telly hoes the wot for!

        • WTF

          That’s why many back him as he wont put up with the s*** that the lib**tard journalists trot out and he reverses their attempts at PC baiting by flipping it back to them.

          When you listen to all those wet liberal politicians whether in Labour or the Tories, the Democrats or the Republicans, whenever a lefty journalists tries to bait them on issues like immigration, they end up using weasel words to avoid making a clear position. The electorate has had more than enough of this cheap shot journalism but when Trump calls out those lame reporters over their baiting attempts, they are the ones left with egg on their face. Its a joy to behold as they aren’t used to a political figure like Trump and don’t know how to respond.

          • Terry Field

            Dem pinkos aint got ne credibylytee. Dem hav screwed da West!
            Dey is towst!!!

    • Sunshine Sux

      He has all the right peoples’ knickers in a bunch.
      When the pc liberal left wing media hates you, you’re doing something right.

      • mrmrsspence

        My daddy always said: Girl, never treat the cook badly or she might spit in your food.

  • sidor

    The truth is: no economy in the world needs to import unqualified labour. It is bad not only socially and politically but economically. The latinos are not needed.

    Trump also made another important point: when importing educated labour, pay them well. That will increase the salaries and stimulate the indigenous population to learn.

  • Skyeward

    Too bad he doesn’t actually connect the dots for his fans and state that immigration is just a symptom of the larger evil – neo-liberalism. Of course he’s a rentier (not a producer) so probably not keen to move to an economy that rewards production. He’s toast by Spring at the latest. The Kochs and their ilk see him as a loose cannon.

    • eddiemackeral

      Disagree, his threat to go independent will gift the WH to the Democrats; GOP has little choice but to back him.

    • WTF

      He has already by his comments about the cancer of political correctness. He not only has come out and said he wants to destroy neo-libralism but he’s actively stating the obvious despite it being politically incorrect and getting up the noses of all the lib***tards !

      • Skyeward

        He’s actively pushing to end cheap money and corporate welfare? Does he intend to tax foreign (hidden) profits of multinationals and also tax hedge funds and private equity at ordinary income tax rates? Will he strongly enforce financial regulation? If so, I’ll have to give him a listen. But if it’s all raving about PC-culture, it’s not worth my time. The idea of micro-agressions surely deserves mockery but I’m more interested in leveling the playing field for domestic producers.

        • Pioneer

          He has to break through the PC to tackle the issue that is killing America. 90 plus million not in work, 50 million below the poverty line, yet the “liberals” and corporatists relentlessly encouraging immigration. Thousands of Americans being raped, maimed and killed.

          Powerful forces are out to stop him, “liberals”,corporatists, drug barons, the faux republicans who want their corporate poodle as the “Republican” nominee.

          If they don’t manage to stop him with the usual dirty tricks, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an attempt on his life.

          He could easily sit clear of the mayhem and enjoy the rest of his natural life in luxury.He doesn’t have to put himself at risk.

          I think he is doing it for his children.

        • TomV

          He probably is ok if you don’t give him a ‘listen’.

    • GenJackRipper

      People have already said he’s toast by this time. Yet he keeps on getting stronger.

      • Skyeward

        Among a certain segment of Americans. The GOP establishment wants to win in a general election. Trump too shall pass.

    • TomV

      You are wrong, socialism has been the biggest evil and mass murdering system in the 20th century.

  • Pioneer

    He will do very well with Hispanic and women voters.

    • Sunshine Sux

      Actually he enjoys great support from the millions of legal Hispanic Americans. Call them crazy, but they don’t want the swarms of illegals, to take their jobs away. And it seems women prefer him to Hitlery.
      So……what were you saying?

    • Grace Ironwood

      He IS doing well with Hispanics! Hilarious.

      They, like the rest of the working class and would-be working class, can clearly see they are forced into competing with the trespassers on price of labour,

  • Patrick Roy

    Another thing we didn’t see coming. But he’s a winner.

    Trump 2016.

  • WTF

    People can try and write him off as a joke figure but across the board both Rep & Dem supporters are resonating with his statements as shown by the polls.

    He’s another Farage who isn’t frightened to say it as it is but being a billionaire and having a fairer election system the establishment in the USA has already lost the battle to trash him in the way our cowardly lot attacked UKIP.

    His comments over ‘anchor’ babies where illegal female immigrants pop over the border to give birth in America to use a loophole to get residency for all their family is in the same vein as Farage and his NHS comments about the UK acting as a health service for the world. He was called out by some left wing lib***tard reporter over using the term ‘anchor baby’ but immediately attacked the wet liberal by challenging him to say what he would call them abusing the system. A deathly silence followed and onto the next statement of inconvenient truth that the establishment refuses to get hold of.

    The Clinton band wagon now has two thirds of the country from ALL political persuasions saying they don’t trust her and think she’s a liar so its almost a certainty she’s dead in the water with conspiracy theorists claiming Obama has it in for her as well.

    You can hate Trump as an individual but what he says is the truth and the American people want to see him take charge. He’s a bit like Reagan who is unashamed to say he’ll appoint the best of the best to manage the country unlike the failures of Obama who tries to micromanage social engineering himself though socialist dogma. A good leader doesn’t pretend he knows everything like Obama, he appoints the right man for the job and it certainly worked for Trump in his business life so he’ll more likely appoint those who can get the job done rather than play party politics.

    Interesting times and maybe if he gets into power it will serve as a role model for the UK to kick our establishment figures out of office !

    • Grace Ironwood

      Well said.
      As events have unfolded Reagan has gained great stature. But at the time he was framed as a clownish figure by the advanced thinkers in the media & his opponents. Nevertheless it maybe a bit early to liken him to Reagan!

      Trump is winning the polls for one reason and one reason only – and yes across the board. It is not because of his charming personality.

      He is advocating the one policy that concerns many Americans and has broken through the wall of silence that’s has been placed there by their betters against raising this issue.

      Trump is a timely and valuable object-lesson to the other contenders in how to speak politically- do not accept the speech norms that the press & Democrats institute against speaking the truth.

      He is showing us all how to exercise free speech in the public sphere.

      • WTF

        Yes, it is a tad early to call him a Reagan figure but his approach is definitely Reaganesque !

        America is far better placed to enact free speech with the first amendment that stands way above any lib**tard attempt at criminalizing the truth as a hate crime as happens in the UK. Britain may have been the original birth place of democracy but it sadly lags behind the USA now since Labour passed laws censoring dissent or opinion which Cameron promised to repeal but now uses for his own nefarious political ends.

    • Maggat

      You guys have a tough row to hoe, but good luck with that
      I hope Canada will not go off the rails come October.

      • I took a look at some seat projections in the Canadian election. There is still time, and frankly there is a motivated crew in Canada who don’t want to see what happened earlier this year in Alberta happen in October, for all of Canada.

        The main fight will start in just over 2 weeks, and right now, the ground is being prepared. When you have the dominant media being cast as lapdogs of the left, the door is open for social media to communicate what people have on their mind. The alternative that the lapdogs can do is for them to mould the message into what they think their audience wants.

    • On that theme, I see Trump getting along famously with Narendra Modi, Tony Abbott and Stephen Harper. I have my doubts about that being the case with David Cameron.

  • WTF

    When you look at the contenders on all sides there’s only Donald Trump & Ben Carson who can claim to be self made men. They both have succeeded in other areas before politics in real estate & medicine respectively and have an excellent track record. Pretty much all of the other contenders like many previous incumbents are either establishment figures, incompetents or conniving liars out to feather their nest.

    • Grace Ironwood

      What do you think about Ted Cruz ?

      Is he an establishment figure, incompetent or conniving liar ?

  • oregun

    Go Trump! He has brought some life back into what was a stodgy political class that was just taking turns at spending the peoples money. When you are attacked from your party and the other party in a two party system you have to wonder what has been going on. There is a reason our southern border has been wide open no matter which party is running the Government(to use the term loosely).

  • johnhenry

    I find Donald Trump to be electrifying, provocative, daring and smart. In those respects, and others, he reminds one so much of Augustus Melmotte. So much so that I’m probably just the third or or fourth person here to have noticed the resemblance. Scary.

    Matthew 7:24-27 will be the text to think of if he actually gets to the White House.

  • Terry Field

    Duz yoo whities give in to da erg too fump Trump?!?!?!?

    • Drunk_by_Noon

      Not as strong as ghetto rats like you embrace illiteracy.
      Write in correct English next time.

  • Alex Williamson

    The only sensible Hispanic strategy is no more Hispanics. They have a whole continent of their own and they are desperate to escape it. Don’t let them turn north America into south America.

  • Lorenzo

    I’m given to understand that Britain’s immigration policies are a great success and are often described by her citizens as “the envy of the world”. If only we, your former colonists, could learn from your experience.

    • Ivan Ewan

      They really aren’t. You are joking, aren’t you?

      • Lorenzo

        Well (pulls shamed face) yes, I was trying to be funny.

  • Gilbert White

    Did not realize Trump had it in him!. Really weird times, both sides have taken the gloves off for what reason? Like the IRA the terror merchants seem bent on Joe Public. Is there some sort of unwritten deal here? A terror team could take out our legal system with the elimination of a handful of High Court Judges, yet train passengers still seem fair game. Will the voters force their MP’s to go to Macedonia to actively manage the situation they have created? Do not bet on it. Protected by security Cameron is a damp squib in Cornwall.

  • edlancey

    “Paul Wood is a BBC correspondent.”

    No sh!t, I would recognise that open borders, anti-white posturing a mile away.

  • polistra24

    “Nothing of substance”??????????????????????????

    A wall is substance.

    “Loving” and “welcoming” and “comprehensive strategies” are NOT substance.

  • When it comes to what & have to say about we are in territory that is as far removed from being politically fashionable, as is possible.

    More is involved than what people want, and this includes what is simply right and wrong.

  • Child_of_Thatcher

    Paul have seen your biased migrants reports, you and the BBC have no credibility. The BBC even admitted its bias on immigration. Your disgraceful reports treat illegal immigrants as heroes. This load of tripe is no exception and you have the facts wrong. Based on the numbers the Republicans do not need the Hispanic vote to win and also new flash, not all Hispanic legal immigrants (yes the ones who vote) like illegals too much either.