If there’s one thing Daniella Aruj has been struck by as she observes American politics in 2016, it’s the devotion that Donald Trump sparks in his supporters.
“Look at all these people,” the Argentine political consultant said late Sunday night, her arm sweeping across a drafty barn, as a steady stream of Trump fans walked in, many wearing Trump’s iconic “Make America Great Again” hats on their heads. “It’s cold, it’s late, they have work and school tomorrow and they are here. It’s amazing.”
Aruj and more than a dozen other foreign political consultants paid nearly $1,000 to observe America’s presidential election up close and personal. On Saturday night, they attended a Hillary Clinton rally in Philadelphia with headliner singer Katy Perry and on Sunday they were in a 4-H barn at the Loudoun Fairgrounds, watching a buoyant crowd wait hours for Trump to arrive. (He made it on stage about 3 hours past his 9:30 p.m. scheduled arrival, telling the hearty attendees: “We’ll call this the midnight special speech.”)
Thousands stayed for Trump’s arrival, including hundreds who watched from outside after the fire marshal closed off access to the barn. The contrast could not have been greater, Aruj said. At the crowded Clinton event, she said: “It was so quiet, most people were there for the singer.”
Aruj said she plans to impart some of the lessons she’s learned to aspiring Argentine politicians: “I’m always talking about being very different and he does it very well,” she said of Trump.
The Republican presidential nominee, however, she noted, is not popular in Argentina where there has been heightened awareness of sexual misconduct after a spate of attacks against women and girls: “Many people think he is representative of slights against women,” she said.
Trump himself was heckled at the rally by a young woman who stood at the front barricades and yelled “Grab ‘em by the p---y, Donald! Grab ‘em by the p---y!,” a reference to the 2005 tape in which Trump boasts of pushing himself on women.
Another America Elige or America Choose participant, Venezuelan political consultant Luis Medina, was struck by the same observation: “Here, you have the passion, the heart.”
At Clinton’s event, he said, “her speech was organized, but no passion. Lots of people were excited for Katy Perry, but Hillary Clinton, not as much.”
In the barn, he said, Trump supporters were “cold, but happy, they have passion.”
Despite his last minute visit to Virginia, Clinton tops Trump 48 percent to 42 percent, according to the final 2016 tracking survey by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. Trump had sliced Clinton’s lead down from a high of 15 points in earlier polls, but her margin held up in the final week.
Medina said he believes Clinton will win, but Trump supporters will remain committed: “Trump is not just of the moment,” he said.