Sunday, April 17, 2016

Postcard from Buchanan County, Va., Where Donald Trump Won the Highest Percentage Vote of Any County

At the Wall Street Journal, "The Place That Wants Donald Trump Most":
BUCHANAN COUNTY, Va. — There isn’t much Jody Bostic believes in these days.

The government has abandoned him, he feels. Local coal mines have laid him off so many times he opened a T-shirt store to make a living. Big-city media treat him and his neighbors like know-nothings.

His remaining hope: Donald Trump will become president and use his business skills to bring jobs to this Appalachian mountain county. “Hey, in this county, things are going downhill. People are getting laid off. People are leaving,” says the 39-year-old former miner. “If Trump don’t get it, it will be another blow.”

Mr. Trump won Buchanan County with 69.7% of the vote in the March 1 Republican primary, the highest percentage vote he has collected in any U.S. county so far. A close look at the white, working-class enclave, which is in Virginia’s southwest, provides a clearer picture of why Mr. Trump inspires supporters and poses problems for anti-Trump GOP strategists.

Voters here say Mr. Trump understands their frustration and will fight the Washington establishment on their behalf. In an area awash in uncertainty—Will mines remain open? Will the river flood? Must the young leave to find work?—he is a reassuring presence, someone who has visited their living rooms for years via television.

Here, as elsewhere, his message of American renewal, closed borders and antigovernment populism resonates despite his brashness, even among Democrats.

His wealth isn’t a put-off. County Sheriff Ray Foster, who supports Mr. Trump, says rich businessmen have long been well-liked around the county because “they make jobs for the people here.”

As for the imbroglios over Mr. Trump’s comments about women and his shifting views on abortion and foreign policy, which have driven up his negative ratings in national polls, they are generally seen here as a plus. They reinforce his outsider status.

“He talks before he thinks,” Mr. Foster says, “so he doesn’t have time to think up something and lie to you.”

The lessons are important for New York, where Mr. Trump is heavily favored to win the primary on Tuesday and has a chance of peeling off working-class Democrats in the general election. He could do especially well in Republican strongholds along the state’s southern tier, federally classified as part of Appalachia. Counties there share some characteristics of Buchanan County.

In Buchanan County, Mr. Trump has won over many Democrats because he not only “speaks for them—he speaks in terms they’re comfortable with,” says Gerald Arrington, the county’s commonwealth’s attorney and a registered Democrat. Mr. Arrington says Mr. Trump won his vote in the Virginia primary, the first time he had cast a vote for a Republican...