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While Trump lost, his backing stayed firm

  • Trump supporter Patti Maloney at the Epsom Bible Church polls.

  • Trump supporter Herb Ainsworth at the Belmont High School polling place on Tuesday morning. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Trump supporters Paulette and Alan Hamel at the Epsom Bible Church polls on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • GEOFF FORESTERMonitor staff

  • Mike Sheran waves to passerbys near the Loudon Safety Building on Tuesday morning, November 3, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Mike Sheran waves to passerbys near the Loudon Safety Building on Tuesday morning, November 3, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 11/7/2020 2:12:52 PM

Most drivers in Loudon honked on Election Day when they passed Mike Sheran on the dirt shoulder of Cooper Street, across from the voting site at the fire house.

A few shook their heads in a dismissive side-to-side motion, or gave him a thumbs down because of his pickup truck, plastered with Trump placards, and his red MAGA cap.

“A tremendous amount of honks,” Sheran said on that blustery Election Day Tuesday. “It’s been mostly positive.”

Loudon and three other towns around Concord – Epsom, Belmont and Salisbury – sided with Donald Trump four years ago by wide margins. Little changed this time.

In a state that voted for Biden over Trump, 53% to 46%, these towns bucked the trend, showing strong support for the incumbent. Tiny Salisbury, with a population of just 1,400 residents, gave Trump 56% of the vote, and that was the smallest number among the four.

In larger Loudon, population 5,600, 58% of voters went for Trump, 40% for Biden. A quick, unscientific scan of these Trump bastions last Tuesday confirmed that the president’s backers in 2016 returned to his corner, hoping for four more years. They were easy to find.

Even though Trump’s percentage of the vote slipped a little in each of these four red towns, the President got more total votes in each than he did four years ago. All four towns share similar characteristics, all are rural, median household income is $70,000 a year or less and fewer than 30% of the population holds a bachelor’s degree.

Many of the President’s supporters admitted Trump’s rhetoric and tweeting bothered them, but the man put money in their pockets, just like he said he would, and that was the bottom line.

These discussions occurred before we knew that Joe Biden had pulled ahead nationally and appeared on his way to take the White House. The polls had said Biden would win in a romp. Not here. The same polls said the same thing in 2016, when Hillary Clinton was supposed to crush Trump. Thanks to big Trump numbers in towns like these, Clinton won New Hampshire by less than one-half of a percentage point.

Trump fans knew something then, and they knew something this time as well. They knew millions of voters were waiting in the background, ignoring polls, honking horns, ready to make history again with an upset that would shake the Lincoln Memorial.

“I think he’ll win,” Sheran proclaimed before the post-voting sqaubbling began.

Sheran runs his own concrete business and said Trump’s policies have helped him greatly. “Being a business person, I noticed the difference right away,” he said, standing near the back of his pickup. “There’s more concrete being sold, electrical equipment, drywall, paving, every aspect of building has been moving forward.”

Sheran said that, unlike in years past, he’s had to pre-order his concrete to make sure he gets it.

“The economy is booming,” Sheran said. “I can feel it. I grew up loving my country and saying the pledge of allegiance, but this has just driven me. I’ve never had this urge to do this. Ever.”

The passion was running uniquely high on both sides of the aisle this election season. Not even a pandemic could stop people from voting. With relaxed rules in place because of the coronavirus, nearly 100 million mail-in votes had been received by Tuesday, more than doubling the number from 2016.

And COVID-19 or not, millions waited on line for hours to be heard, and that included plenty of seniors, the most vulnerable to the infection.

Trump loyalists were easy to find in these four towns. Jeff Keeler, who’s been the town moderator in Epsom for 15 years, said the town has traditionally been conservative, yet also, at times it seeks bipartisanship.

“We had a majority vote for Jeanne Shaheen,” Keeler said, referring to the U.S. Senator who won another term Tuesday.”But really, there are more independents here than right or left.”

During this presidential election, Trump’s economic policies were praised, over and over, with Epsom business owner Patti Maloney saying, “I was able to increase the number of people on my staff, and I was able to put more (money) in their paychecks.”

Alan Hamel, who owns a trucking business in Epsom, said he noticed a change as soon as Trump moved into the Oval Office.

“He made the economy better,” Hamel said. “I felt it right away, a big boost.”

That said, some voters fueled their passion by combining their love for Trump with their utter dislike for Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his party.

“If (Biden wins), the left, with Kamala (Harris), takes over,” Maloney said. “It’s not the Democratic party anymore. It’s too far left. It makes me nervous.”

Epsom attorney John Katsirebas voted for Trump, and he, too, said the alternative, both four years ago and this time, played a big role in his decision.

“In ’16, the feeling was, ‘please, for the love of God, no Hillary,’ ” Katsirebas said. “It’s mostly the same feelings here.”

Katsirebas and Maloney both acknowledged that Trump was not perfect. Katsirebas was especially critical.

“I don’t think Trump was the best person to represent the Republicans,” Katsirebas said. “We could have done better. He has a complete lack of a filter, and his tweeting is unprofessional. The world looks at him like a walking cartoon character.”

When asked if Trump’s controversial behavior and statements about women bothered her, Maloney initially declined to comment, saying, “I don’t want to answer that.”

Soon, though, she said some of the accusations against Trump happened in a different era, and that mattered.

“When he was in the private sector, if you’re talking about a slap in the ass during the 1980s, it’s time to get over it and move on,” Maloney said. “Anyone can bring anything up from the ‘80s. Who wasn’t slapped in the ass?”

In Belmont, Herb Ainsworth, a retired telephone company worker, said Trump’s no-nonsense approach coaxed him to vote for him four years ago, and he did the same this time.

“We finally found a president who speaks the truth and what’s on his mind, period.” Ainsworth said. “I’m 72, and he’s the best president in my lifetime.”

Voter feedback favorable to Trump came from all directions, as did negativity directed at Biden and the Democrats.

Alfred Underhill of Salisbury, a surveyor for the N.H. Department of Transportation, supported Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. A born-again Christian, he’s pro life and appreciated Trump’s conservative selections for the Supreme Court.

“He’s the greatest president I’ve ever seen, other than Reagan,” Underhill said. “And there’s no other choice. Biden doesn’t even know where he is.”

He does now. Biden is eyeing the White House. And it looks like he will be there after Inauguration Day on Jan. 21 unless the legal maneuvering stops him.

Meanwhile, the millions of voters who fooled pollsters in consecutive presidential elections will lick their wounds and look ahead. Trump changed the code of conduct in the Oval Office. Some of his fans loved him for it.

Their camaraderie grew, into a strong, organized, widespread movement, with members realizing their place in history, realizing they could turn the political world upside down and benefit from it too.

Loudon and other towns never jumped ship. Drivers acknowledged Sheran all morning, honking, waving, stopping to bond with a member of this new, unorthodox political movement.

The wind added to the cold, making a full-day of 11th-hour campaigning uncomfortable.

The honking warmed things.

“And someone came out before and gave me a pair of hand warmers,” Sheran said.

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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