A factor that makes the current presidential race difficult to handicap: Donald Trump tapping into “unlikely voters” — either young voters newly engaged by the process, or older voters who, after years of being disappointed by “establishment” politicians, appreciate what they see as candor from the GOP nominee.
Illustrating this phenomenon is sunrise in Jacksonville, where a couple hundred Trump supporters queued up ahead of a rally set to start at noon.
The earliest showed up hours before dawn. And many of them were women — establishing the premise that at least some were immune to the “first woman president” trope advanced by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
For example, there was Yvonne Fisher, a wheelchair-bound lady in her 40s who was one of the very first in line.
Her reason for showing early?
“We wanted a place at the rally,” Fisher said.
“St. Augustine” — where a rally had a turn away crowd last month — was “closed down,” Fisher said, and her daughter had a similar experience in Colorado Springs.
“I was running out of hope until I started listening to Donald Trump speak,” Fisher said, calling him “inspiring” and saying he “instilled hope.”
Regarding Clinton, Fisher declaimed that “I want a woman president, but not that woman.”
Clinton, said Fisher, would be the “end of America as we know it.”
And then there was Jennifer Brecht, a “proud Navy wife” who also appeared to be in her 40s, who said, “I consider this a movement.”
Brecht has supported Trump “since Day 1,” which is to say the day he descended via escalator and announced his candidacy.
“I know him from the ’80s on the Oprah Winfrey show. He’s always wanted to change the country,” Brecht said.
When asked about Trump’s evolution on issues, such as abortion, Brecht said Trump’s “positions didn’t change.”
“Back in the day,” Brecht said, “they didn’t do third-trimester abortions.”
Meanwhile, millennials were among some early arrivals, such as Jordan Foster, an 18-year-old female student at Jacksonville University who offered issues where she supports Trump, such as a “temporary suspension of immigration” and a “foreign policy based on how he looks at business.”
Foster looked like the type of young woman the Clinton campaign would expect to have as support, was it not for her “Lead Right” shirt and her red “Make America Great Again” hat.
“I’m not worried about the first woman president,” Foster said. “I want a damn good president.”
And then there were those who came from far away, such as 18-year-old Colton Palmer, a student at the University of Central Florida who travels to rallies like hippies to Phish shows.
Palmer attended the Trump rally in Orlando the day before.
“I sat behind him,” Palmer said, “but I want to see him from the front.”
Also on hand as the sun came up were vendors, such as John’s Rock and Ride from Daytona Beach.
The husband and wife team running the booth had been to three previous Trump rallies and had merchandise that included the candidate’s face superimposed over a Confederate Flag and various “deplorables” items.
Shirts are priced to move: the Trump as Captain America shirt was marked down to $10.
“If he’s in,” John said, “we boost merchandise.”
And if Clinton wins? There will be merchandise for her as well.
Just as in political journalism, the show goes on for merchandise vendors no matter who wins or loses.