At Trump rally, voters say they want more substance and less personal attacks

  • A Trump supporter responds to protesters outside a Trump rally at Toyota of Portsmouth Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • A Trump supporter, who refused to identify himself, stood across a four-way intersection from protesting Clinton supporters outside a Donald Trump rally in Portsmouth Saturday. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Thousands of people from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and other nearby states turned out for a Donald Trump rally at Toyota of Portsmouth Saturday. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Samantha Pantalone of Bedford and her boyfriend, Scott Zumwalt of Lawrence, Mass., look at a t-shirt for sale outside a Donald Trump rally in Portsmouth Saturday. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • A sign sits out at the Portsmouth Trump rally Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Trump supporters show off their T-shirts at a rally in Portsmouth on Saturday. ELODIE REED / Monitor staff

  • Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump takes the stage at a rally in Portsmouth on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/15/2016 11:58:10 PM

If the “I Am Deplorable” T-shirts, “Hillary For Prison” slogans and protesters’ signs quoting lewd comments in a 2005 Access Hollywood tape were any indication outside a Trump rally at Toyota of Portsmouth on Saturday, the 2016 election season has not been a friendly one.

A comment made by one candidate for president about his opponent potentially doing drugs before a debate continued this tone over the weekend.

“A lot of the country seems divided over which candidate they like least, instead of who they like best,” said Somersworth resident Jim Smith.

Smith, an independent voter still making up his mind, said political conversations these days with his family and friends are respectful, but tend to revolve around candidate character.

Standing with his 17-year-old son Sam in a line for the Trump rally Saturday, Smith said over the past week, “We’ve talked about the tape, we talked about the comments made about the girl on the escalator.”

He referred to a separate video from 1992 that surfaced last week and showed Trump talking to a young girl on an escalator and then saying, “I’m going to be dating her in 10 years.”

Smith and his friends also talked about last Sunday’s debate, and how most people’s questions didn’t seem to get answered, like how to deal with the threat of ISIS, or how to strengthen the economy.

“I think there are greater issues in the country I wish were being discussed,” Smith said.

Smith isn’t alone in his dissatisfaction. Dick Clancey of Nashua, for example, showed his displeasure when a Donald Trump campaign worker asked him to sign her clipboard Saturday morning.

“I’ve been talking to Trump headquarters and they don’t listen,” Clancey told the woman. “The only way he’s going to win is if he’s going to address the issues.”

Clancey, an independent voter, said he’s set to vote for Trump because he feels the establishment – Republicans and Democrats – needs to be shaken up. But he’s looking for more substance from his candidate.

“I’m not a fan of Trump the way he talks at all,” Clancey said.

At the beginning of Trump’s rally Saturday, he did not exactly linger on policy.

After outlining his main proposals in the first two minutes, Trump spent the next few moments attacking his opponent.

“Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the office,” Trump said. Throughout his speech, he referred back to the recent Wikileaks release of emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

One document reportedly shows a question about the death penalty that was leaked a day before the March 13 CNN Town Hall between Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Fact-checkers have since argued this leak was not directly between CNN and the campaign.

“Can you imagine if I got questions before a debate?” Trump asked.

Trump also discussed the other big story of the week, the release of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape where he is recorded talking about kissing and groping women without consent.

After Trump and his campaign initially dismissed the incident as just “locker room talk,” multiple women have come forward reporting Trump displayed this behavior toward them.

Trump, in return, called the allegations “phony.”

“(The) one with People magazine, the butler said it was a total lie. Remember the butler?” Trump said. “We can’t let them get away with this folks. Total lies.”

Trump also slipped in a comment that appeared to accuse Clinton of using drugs ahead of last Sunday’s debate. He suggested both candidates undergo drug testing before the next one.

“She’s getting pumped up – you understand.” Trump said.

Trump pivoted to his first issue about a third of the way through his speech, addressing the opioid epidemic.

“I promised the people of New Hampshire I would stop drugs from pouring into your community,” he said.

Sticking closely to his teleprompter, Trump outlined more specific policy proposals for accomplishing this. Included were his standby “build a wall” on the Mexican border, plus ending sanctuary cities, dismantling drug cartels, continuing Congress’ efforts of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 to increase access to treatment, and asking the FDA to speed up approval for “abuse deterrent” drugs.

“We also,” Trump said, “have to solve the problems of the economic crisis now.”

In addition to wanting to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Trump said he would reduce federal business taxes from 35 to 15 percent, whatever size they might be.

Trump spent some time Saturday, too, addressing the ugliness of this year’s election.

“It’s a crazy world we’re living in,” he said. “It looks to me like a rigged election.” The news media, plus donors and special interests, Trump said, were to blame.

At one point, chants of “CNN sucks” broke out in the crowd.

Many of Trump’s supporters echoed his claims that the election is rigged against him.

Danna Lipton, a 61-year-old Greenland resident, said she has lost friends to this election because of which side they took.

“Democrats are the shadiest people I know,” she said. “I can’t wait until all this comes down and people start going to jail.”

Others in the crowd Saturday were less hardcore about their candidate, though admitted they can’t really talk politics with some family or friends because of the election’s intensity.

Shari Lucey, a 57-year-old Merrimack resident, said about half of her family are registered Democrats.

“We try not to talk about it with the family,” she said, adding that when she visits some relatives, they jokingly use their hands to cover up her Trump bumpersticker on the car.

Portsmouth resident Nicole Perez, 31, said she follows suit with friends and co-workers she knows won’t agree with her. In a perfect world, though, she would like to be able to discuss the issues, regardless of party affiliation.

“It would be great if you could find someone,” Perez said. “Half the time, I’m not able to speak. I’m the type of person who appreciates everybody’s opinion, (but) I’m someone who finds it very hard to talk about politics, especially this election.”

Perez and others hoping to elevate the conversation may get their chance post-election, since most voters agreed Saturday that whoever wins in 23 days, all of this isn’t going away.

Clancey is happy about that.

“This is a major change,” he said, “I hope it continues afterwards.”

(Associated Press reports contributed to this story. Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)

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