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Donald Trump Faltering? Die-Hard Fans Refuse to Buy It - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — A day after Mr. Trump defended himself at the second presidential debate for making vulgar comments about women, amid a wave of polls showing an increasing lead for Hillary Clinton, thousands of Trump supporters turned out with undimmed fervor for the Republican nominee and optimism about his electoral prospects.

They echoed nearly verbatim Mr. Trump’s defense that his lewd comments about women on a 2005 recording were merely “locker room talk,” calling them harmless words compared with the far-worse actions Mrs. Clinton and her husband had taken to shame women.

They reiterated Mr. Trump’s claim that national polls showing him behind by double digits were “rigged” and that he was heading to victory in November.

In the campaign’s last weeks, at such rallies, Mr. Trump is sealed in a hermetic bubble with his most fervent supporters. They are people passionate enough to wait hours to attend a rally where the candidate and the crowds draw energy and affirmation from each other, while dismissing any discouraging information.

His supporters routinely pointed, as the nominee did, to the huge crowds still flocking to see him as evidence that his campaign remains strong.

“I don’t believe anything the media says,” said Brad Chilson, 47, a truck driver from Bradford County, Pa., who waited hours with his wife outside the 8,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre for Mr. Trump. “Look at the turnout we’ve got here.”

Mr. Trump was in high spirits on Monday night in northeastern Pennsylvania, in the heart of a largely white, blue-collar region that he has visited regularly, running a campaign sustained by a visceral feel for his audience while ignoring abstractions like data and research.

“I think the state of Pennsylvania, we’re going to win so big,” he said. A New York Times polling average shows Mrs. Clinton 7.2 percentage points ahead in the state.

“Everybody in Pennsylvania wants Trump, you know,” he said. “We get crowds like this everywhere.” He boasted of a rally planned for Florida with an expected 25,000 people.

As he spoke, Katie Packer, a strategist for Mitt Romney in 2012, posted a photograph on Twitter of 30,000 people at an Ohio rally four years ago a week before Mr. Romney’s defeat. “None of the Trump crowds so far in the general election surpass what we regularly had in ’12,” Ms. Packer wrote. “They are so naïve.”

Yet Mr. Trump whipped the crowd to anger at the news media and its “crooked” polls. At one point, he falsely claimed that CNN had turned off its live coverage as he was accusing the network of manipulating a debate-night focus group. The crowd then chanted an anti-CNN epithet.

He also read the results of unscientific, opt-in online surveys.

“Trump 70, Clinton 30,” Mr. Trump quoted from a reader survey by the Drudge Report on which candidate had won the second debate. “Oh, listen to this,” he said, reading from an iPhone. “Time magazine. You think Time magazine likes me?” He cited the result: 89 for Trump, 11 for Clinton. “Oh, here’s a good one,” he added. “Well, they’re slightly conservative — Breitbart. 93 to 7,” he read.

Mr. Trump’s supporters who were waiting to hear him speak cited alternative sources of information they preferred, dismissing even Fox News in favor of emails from far-right commentators like Allen B. West, a former congressman, and Dennis Lynch, who makes films about illegal immigration.

They also repeated conspiracy theories that flourish online. “A lot of people affiliated with Hillary have died over the years, and nobody says nothing about it,” said Eric Bulger, a retired police officer with the Port Authority for New York and New Jersey.

“When all this baloney came out about Trump, I understand it’s a scandal,” said Brenda Stchur, 56, a Democrat from Hudson, Pa., who supports Mr. Trump. “But John F. Kennedy wasn’t innocent, either, and everyone loves John F. Kennedy.”

Marilyn Sevigny, a retiree from Lake Ariel, Pa., said that “as a woman, I don’t like what he said, I’m not defending it.” But she added that there was a double standard at work. “If a Democrat says it, it’s just words. If a Republican says it, it’s an assault,” she said.

(The New York Times)