Donald Trump is struggling to gain support in the Wisconsin county represented by House Speaker Paul Ryan — one of the most reliably Republican counties in the United States.
Other GOP candidates have won suburban Waukesha County by landslide amounts in recent years — George W. Bush won by 35 points in 2004 and Mitt Romney by 34 in 2012 — but Trump has been unable to win voters’ trust in the reliably red county, reported USA Today.
“He’s just a horrible human being — he has no soul,” said voter Phil Rosen, 55, an ardent conservative. “He changes opinions hourly. I don’t want Hillary — I don’t like her, I don’t trust her. Trump? How can you trust anything he says?”
The overwhelmingly white county produced more GOP voters per capita than any county its size in 2012, but Trump isn’t generating much excitement this year.
He’s running 15 points behind incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, and four polls from this summer found Trump leading Democrat Hillary Clinton 45-32 in Waukesha — and more than one in five voters refused to state a preference.
“You know there are days when I’m like, ‘Okay, maybe now he’s on the right track,’ and then tomorrow comes, and I just put my head down and go, ‘Ugh, never mind,’” said Karla Fuller, a 47-year-old veterinary technician. “I wish the election was a lot further away than what it is.”
USA Today interviewed voters as part of a series covering eight key counties ahead of the Nov. 8 election, and some GOP voters in Waukesha County described their party’s choice as the “lesser of two evils,” “mean,” a “hot mess” and a “real good loose cannon.”
Trump is behind Clinton by 5 points in recent statewide polling, and some Republicans worry that his problems in Waukesha County will hurt the GOP’s chances statewide.
“The biggest problem is there are a number of Republicans that don’t want to vote because they don’t like Trump,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who lives in Waukesha County’s Menomonee Falls. “If they don’t vote, that hurts down-ballot Republicans such as Sen. Johnson.”
If Trump can’t win Waukesha County, which boasted an 83 percent turnout four years ago among voting-age citizens, he’s not likely to win Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes.
“The difficulty is to win this state, if you have drop off among Waukesha voters and southeast Wisconsin voters, you’ve got to make it up somewhere else,” said Stephan Thompson, a GOP strategist and former director of the state party. “But where are you going to go to do that? And when your map is contracting, whether you’re talking about states or counties, you’ve got to more or less put up unprecedented numbers somewhere else.”
No GOP presidential candidate has won Wisconsin since 1984, and Trump lost the state’s April 5 primary by 13 points to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) — who beat the eventual nominee in Waukesha County by 39 points.
He hired his first paid campaign staffers in the state in June, about a month after Clinton.
Trump has also angered Wisconsin voters by picking fights with Ryan, who enjoys an 82 percent favorability rating among Republicans, and Gov. Scott Walker, who at 84 percent is even more popular among GOP voters.