CEDAR RAPIDS — Larry Riley was a delegate for Walter Mondale at the Iowa Democratic Party state convention in 1984. Monday, he was cheering Donald Trump.
“I’m for him because he’s an outsider and not controlled by big business and the Washington politicians,” Riley, of Springville, said at a town-hall meeting with the Republican presidential candidate’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Pence assured Riley he and Trump understand the American people are “sick and tired of pay-to-play politics” that he said characterize the relationship between Hillary Clinton and donors to the Clinton Foundation, founded by former President Bill Clinton.
“When Donald Trump becomes president of the United States, we’re going to bring pay-to-play politics to a crashing halt on Day 1,” the vice presidential nominee said in a 25-minute speech before taking questions.
Pence described Trump as a man “who never quits, who never backs down. He is a fighter and he is a winner … a doer in a game usually reserved for talkers.”
And when he talks, Trump “doesn’t go tiptoeing around those thousands of rules of political correctness that people lay in the path of people who are trying to turn this country around.”
But “sometimes he says things that he shouldn’t,” said Ron Meyer of Solon.
However, Meyer, who is retired from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa Army National Guard, likes Trump’s law-and-order positions.
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His wife, Becky, likes Trump’s border plans. During 34 years at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, she said she saw too many people overstaying their visas.
“This country welcomes anybody who comes, but we want them to come legally,” she said.
Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire questioned whether Trump shares that spirit. She called it ironic that Pence, “one half of the ticket that has repeatedly called for a ban to keep Muslims from entering our country,” was in Cedar Rapids, home to the nation’s oldest Islamic mosque.
“Immigrants from all over the world continue to make valuable contributions to Cedar Rapids and to our state,” McGuire said. “The Trump-Pence ticket of exclusion, not inclusion, is not in line with Iowa values.”
Unlike Riley and the Meyers, Ross McCutchen wasn’t a Trump supporter from the start.
He originally backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Now he’s all in for Trump. He drove from St. Louis to attend the Pence town-hall and is the Missouri director of Trump Millennials.
“I’m looking for the best negotiator,” McCutchen said. “He’s proven he can work with everyone.”
Trump would use his negotiating skills to “make sure trade deals work for the American worker, for the American people, and not just the multinational corporations,” Pence said.
However, Trump’s promise to run the country like he’s run his businesses “should scare everyone … because his economic record has left a trail of victims as he has made millions of dollars on the backs of others,” Charlie Wishman, of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO told reporters on a conference call organized by Hillary for Iowa.
In many cases, Wishman said, Trump didn’t pay what was owed “not because he couldn’t pay them but because he could stiff them.”
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That didn’t faze Riley, who is semiretired from a career in construction and now manages rental property. To be successful in business, “you have to know how to play the business game.”
Not even the historic nature of Clinton’s candidacy found support among the audience estimated at 300 people.
Although she believes that in her lifetime American will elect a female president, Kim Reem of Marion, president of the National Federation of Republican Women, said “Clinton doesn’t speak for us.”
“Not that woman. Not this year. Not ever,” she said.