Toledo, Ohio —
While waiting hours in line for her first Donald Trump rally, Jennifer Colburn, a staunch supporter of the president who has two sons serving in the military, said she hopes the president continues to de-escalate tension with Iran.
“I’m not a big fan of war,” she told ABC News, ahead of Trump’s kickoff rally in Toledo, Ohio. “I’m a fan of doing things that are good for our country here.”
Days earlier, Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a seismic escalation in the prolonged conflict with Iran. But after no American, Iraqi or coalition forces were killed in Iran’s retaliatory missile strikes targeting U.S. troops in Iraq, the president has worked to temper the conflict.
Trump ordered the strike without informing Congressional leaders, citing “imminent attacks” as justification, which led the House of Representatives to pass a measure limiting the president’s authority to take further military action against Iran. Trump and his administration have yet to provide any evidence of the so-called imminent attacks.
On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump pitched an “America First” agenda, saying in April 2016 that “war and aggression will not be my first instinct,” later adding, “A superpower understands that caution and restraint are really truly signs of strength.”
He even echoed that promise in his 2019 State of the Union address, promising a shift in U.S. foreign policy.
“As a candidate for President, I pledged a new approach,” Trump said. “Great nations do not fight endless wars.”
Yet his actions appear to be at odds with his campaign promises. While he blustered about wanting to bomb ISIS, Trump also campaigned on bringing U.S. troops home from the Middle East and openly questioned the intelligence that led to the war in Iraq, criticizing President George W. Bush in a sharp contrast to his GOP primary rivals.
Colburn said she voted for Trump in 2016 in part because he promised to cease “endless wars” and bring home troops. Now, that promise is on the rocks, and entanglement in the Middle East appears prolonged. Regardless, Colburn and many other Trump loyalists still back the president’s recent action against Iran.
“Oh, I still support him,” said Colburn, responding to whether Trump broke his “American First” promise. She added that her family benefits too much from the Trump economy to jump ship.
Jennifer Halk, also in line for the rally, wearing a matching “Trump 2020” beanie and scarf, scoffed that the U.S. was “right back into it again” when asked about Trump running on getting out of the Middle East. “I think they need to bring everybody back,” she said. But Halk also said she’ll support the president no matter what.
Trump’s base of loyal and fierce supporters has proven largely unshakable throughout his first term. Regardless of the litany of controversies that may have sunk another president, including becoming just the third in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, Trump’s approval, and disapproval, has remained stable. According to FiveThirtyEight, Trump’s approval rating has consistently hovered around the low 40s, while his disapproval has remained in the mid-to-low 50s.
But there are some Trump loyalists who want him to end America’s Middle East entanglements.
At the “Evangelicals for Trump” launch in a packed bilingual megachurch, with Christian music pumping through the sound system instead of the usual classic-rock-filled Trump rally playlist, Martha Rivaro, who backed Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2016 primary, said she’s completely converted to team Trump after his policies helped her small business turn a profit for the first time since 2008.
“How could you not support that?” said Rivaro, tears welling up in her eyes.
Rivaro did say, however, that “we are too involved with foreign policy. But he’s got to do what he’s got to do.”
When asked specifically about the Trump-ordered airstrike that killed Soleimani, she added: “I support him, but I don’t agree with some of that stuff, being in those wars. I don’t. But I also listen to why he does it and I still support him.”
“I’m not going to like everything he does,” she added.
Back in Toledo, other Trump supporters were more celebratory of the military strike.
Larry Currier said he believed it was the president’s hope to get out of the Middle East, but that Soleimani “wanted to push our buttons and doesn’t realize — and I’m trying not to be nasty — but he doesn’t realize we are a major power and you are not. You start playing a game, [Trump] is the bull in the china shop, and he will take you down.”
Frank Cordova, who drove 200 miles from Michigan to attend the Toledo rally on Thursday, told ABC News not only that he agreed with the killing of Soleimani but that he wants Trump to order an even more comprehensive attack.
“It was not enough, by far,” he said, adding that he hopes Trump “levels Tehran.”
“Level it,” he added.
About 20 miles away at a windy supermarket parking lot in Maumee, Ohio, Maureen, who declined to give her last name, smiled wide when asked about Trump and Iran, adding, “Life happens.”
She said she voted for him in 2016 and plans to again in 2020.
“There’s a lot of people here who don’t like what he says, and some of what he does,” she added, “but they’re gonna vote for him anyways.”