MAQUOKETA: They voted for Donald Trump in 2016, in 2020 -- and they wouldn't hesitate to cast a third ballot with his name on it for the 2024 White House race, even amid his spiraling legal woes.
AFP met with Republican voters in Iowa, the first US state to host a presidential nominating contest in January, to find out who they are supporting and why. The Midwesterners explained why they are still Team Trump all the way.
'He hasn't lied to me'
Delbert Banowetz, a 93-year-old retired dairy farmer, showed up five hours before Trump arrived for his campaign event in the eastern Iowa city of Maquoketa -- population, roughly 6,000. He was not shy about his admiration for the former US president.
“He’s a damn good guy,“ Banowetz told AFP from his spot at the front of the line for the rally, explaining he’d been to several Trump events in the past.
“I want to be up as close as possible to him,“ he added, noting: “I like his style.”
Despite his clear admiration for the 77-year-old billionaire, who remains the Republican Party's frontrunner in the race to challenge Democratic incumbent Joe Biden, Banowetz nevertheless expressed concern about Trump's multiple indictments.
“He has to be careful a little bit. He can be a little fast in making decisions,“ he said.
Trump is facing an election subversion conspiracy trial in Washington, criminal charges over alleged mishandling of classified documents in Florida, and a racketeering trial in Georgia over efforts to overturn the 2020 election result in the southern state.
In New York, he faces charges of paying election-eve hush money to a porn star.
But Banowetz smiled as he said: “He hasn’t lied to me.”
'I don't even understand' charges
When Adam Miller, a corn and bean farmer, saw Trump's mugshot for the first time on the internet, he was crestfallen.
“It just breaks your heart,“ the 61-year-old Miller -- a father of nine children, five of them adopted -- told AFP at the Trump rally.
“I don’t even understand all the crimes he’s accused of,“ added the tall, bespectacled dark-haired Iowan, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans.
Miller said he especially likes what Trump achieved on the issue of abortion, alluding to the former leader's choice of three conservative-leaning Supreme Court justices who helped to overturn the country's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
But he added: “Everything he does is right.”
'He ran the country like a business'
Trump, who occupied the Oval Office from 2017 to 2021, helped Americans “get more of a bang for our buck,“ said Elaine Rooker, a 71-year-old retiree who said she has been a card-carrying Republican since the era of Richard Nixon.
Rooker, eating a slice of pizza in her red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, said she liked Trump because “he ran the country like a business.”
So what does she make of the four criminal cases Trump is navigating? She said the court action only reaffirmed her support for him.
“I think that it’s all so the Democrats can continue to rule,“ she said, without offering any further explanation.
'Biden looks like a 90-year-old man'
Janie Fitzpatrick, a 39-year-old cosmetologist, came to see Trump in Maquoketa, not far from the border with Illinois, with her mother Brenda.
She said she felt like the criminal charges against Trump were inevitable and the result of a partisan vendetta.
“I knew they’d probably target him and try to get him for something, one way or another,“ Fitzpatrick told AFP.
She remains convinced that Trump has been unjustly persecuted, and is adamant that Biden “doesn’t even seem like he knows what he’s talking about.”
“Biden looks like a 90-year-old man,“ she said, while Trump “maintains his skin, his hair, stays in shape.”
In reality, the Democrat is 80 years old, just three years Trump's senior. - AFP