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Some Trump supporters turned off by behavior, rhetoric


Ted Korolewski is the treasurer of his local GOP. He’s an enthusiastic Trump voter. And at last month’s Waushara County Fair, he could be found manning the Republican Party booth alongside a life-size cutout of the president.

Yet when a reporter asked him if he had any qualms about Donald Trump, he readily acknowledged some.

“I think a president ought to look like a president, act like a president. And he doesn’t do that,” Korolewski said. “I wouldn’t work for him for three minutes, and neither would you. You can’t! How could you work for him?”

Concerns about President Trump’s personality and behavior are one of the great wild cards in the 2020 election.

But the fact that they’re so widely shared—even among Trump’s own supporters—makes it especially difficult to gauge their electoral impact. Some voters back him because of his “persona,” many others do so in spite of it.

Polls suggest that to win re-election, the president will have to win the votes of many people who either don’t like him or are put off by how he speaks and behaves (just as he did in 2016).

How are those voters weighing their personal qualms about the president?

Interviews with voters around the state and public polling in Wisconsin point to a broad spectrum of opinion about the president’s personal attributes. Qualities that are strengths to one voter are minor peeves, major concerns or disqualifying flaws to another.

There is nothing surprising about that. But what is distinctive about this election is how common those concerns are and the degree to which they cross political lines. Most Republicans and most people who voted for Trump in 2016 are very likely to vote for him again, whatever their qualms. Many have set aside their problems with his personality.

“I think he’s doing a decent job,” Korolewski said.

‘He puts his foot in his mouth’

But some have real discomfort with the president’s behavior and rhetoric, leaving them conflicted in either big or small ways about their vote.

“He doesn’t know enough to keep his damn mouth shut. Hey, you can think something, but you don’t have (to say it) ... He puts his foot in his mouth so many times,” said Dick Clark, a retiree who lives near Mauston and who voted for Trump in 2016 but doesn’t know how he’ll vote in 2020.

“Sometimes I wish he would just kind of be quiet a little bit,” said Jeff Pankratz, a Marshfield-area farmer who is largely supportive of the president. “As far as somebody putting his foot down and not being afraid to make somebody mad a little bit, I kind of like that. I don’t like the insults.”

One window into these sentiments comes from a first-time online survey conducted last month by the Marquette University Law School, which does regular telephone polls in the state.

Online panel registers ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’

In addition to his traditional phone survey, pollster Charles Franklin assembled an online panel consisting of a demographic cross-section of more than 200 Wisconsin voters to answer the kinds of open-ended questions that are hard to accommodate in a telephone poll.

One question was, “What, if anything, do you like about Pres. Trump?” Another was, “What, if anything, do you dislike about Pres. Trump?”

One takeaway from the survey is that while many anti-Trump voters had nothing positive to say about the president (a lot of them wrote “nothing” under “likes” and “everything” under “dislikes”), many pro-Trump voters expressed specific concerns or misgivings.

In fact, it was striking how many people from the most pro-Trump segments of the electorate said there were things they disliked about the president’s personality or behavior.

This was true of more than two-thirds of the Republicans who took the survey. It was true of more than two-thirds of the people who said they voted for Trump in 2016. And it was true of more than two-thirds of those in the survey who said they approved of Trump’s performance in office.

These concerns ranged from minor—that the president’s use of Twitter gives ammunition to his critics—to major, such as “unstable personality” or “he’s a bigot.”

Frustration with Trump’s tweeting was rampant. But among the broader “dislikes” offered by pro-Trump voters were such descriptions as, “crude,” “harsh,” “narcissistic,” “spoiled,” “childish,” “rude and reckless,” and “quite brutal.”

Trump supporters in the survey had plenty of praise for the president’s qualities, too, saying he “does what he says he’s going to do,” “stands up for what he believes in,” “doesn’t care what people think about him,” and has a “will to combat all the negative and false news that is reported about him.”

Some cited the same attributes as both positives and negatives.

One Republican Trump voter in her early 40s wrote, “he’s blunt” under her “likes” and “he’s blunt” under her “dislikes.”

One Trump voter liked the fact that he “is not political,” but didn’t like that “he doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.”

One liked that he is “blunt” but wished he “was less boastful.”

Another liked that he expresses himself “openly,” but said he used social media too much.

In interviews with a reporter last month, many Republican-leaning or conservative voters around the state said they liked the president’s policies much more than his personal behavior.

“If I was to meet him face to face, and say one thing, it would be, ‘Hey, Donald, you need to get a thicker skin for what you’re doing. Stop the name calling.’ … I like everything he does. I just don’t like the tweets,” said Trump voter Larry Verheyden of Green Bay.

Brenda Kindred, a Republican voter in Merton, said, “He’s a jackass, but I like what he’s doing. If he could just keep his mouth shut, that’s all I ask. It is conflicting because some of the things that come out of his mouth, I’m like, ‘Do I necessarily want to support that?’ It’s not like I’m supporting him as a person. I support some of his ideas. I do like the idea of someone finally standing up for the U.S.”

Her fiancé, Steve Adams, said, “I like what Trump is doing. I’m not a big fan of his tweeting. I’m not a big fan of his, just, nonsense, but whatever he’s doing right now is kind of what I agree with. … That’s kind of like what everybody I know actually feels.”

In the regular telephone survey that Marquette released Sept. 4, Trump trailed the leading Democrat, Joe Biden, by 9 points in Wisconsin. His approval rating was 45%. Consistent with past surveys, the share of voters who “strongly” approved of his performance (26%) was much smaller than the share who “strongly” disapproved (44%), reflecting the fact that his supporters are more conflicted about him than his detractors.

Ed Goeas, a GOP pollster based in northern Virginia, divides the electorate into four groups depending on how they distinguish between Trump’s policies and his “persona.”

One is a large and overwhelmingly Republican group that likes both the policies and the persona.

One is an even larger and overwhelmingly Democratic group that dislikes both.

One is a smaller group of “mainly Republicans that don’t like his persona, but like his policies and put a premium on the policies,” Goeas said. “A lot of them have stopped worrying about his personality.”

And finally, there is an even smaller group “that are soft Republicans, soft Democrats, largely independent, that don’t like his persona, do like his policies, but put a premium on the persona.”

This reporter interviewed a small businessman from central Wisconsin last month who seemed to fall into this last category (like a lot of voters skittish these days about publicizing their political views, he didn’t want his named used). He described himself as a Republican-leaning conservative who doesn’t like Democrats on the issues but doesn’t “really care for the man in office right now.”

“He seems to belittle people, seems childish, looking for a fight that doesn’t have to happen,” said this voter, who cast a ballot for a third-party candidate in 2016 but was deeply torn over how he would vote in 2020.

“I am in a tough spot.”

Angela Major 

Alejandra Garcia, center, reacts while playing a game where students were challenged to identify political and cultural figures on a screen in the C-SPAN bus while sitting next to Rachel Van Beek, right, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, at Parker High School in Janesville. The 45-foot customized mobile classroom and production studio designed to help students and teachers engage with the political process, according to a news release. The bus started its tour Sept. 4 in Iowa, where the first presidential caucus will be held next year, and scheduled stops in 10 states including battleground states Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The last stop will be in New Hampshire on Oct. 18.

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Rock County health officials: Get your flu shot now

Influenza shots do not cause the flu.

The most common misconception about flu shots is that the vaccination makes patients sick, and that’s not true, said Jen Weadge, public nurse at the Rock County Public Health Department.

Flu season typically begins around October or November. Weadge said the vaccine takes about two weeks to start working, so now is a good time to get a flu shot.

It’s best to protect yourself from the flu before cases of the respiratory infection start popping up, Weadge said.

She said it’s too early to predict how long and how severe this year’s flu season will be.

The World Health Organization each year selects which viruses to include in flu vaccines, based on which ones are circulating at the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu vaccines are made of three viruses, typically two Type A and one Type B virus. Vaccines with four viruses are available for additional protection, according to the CDC.

This year’s vaccine contains the same Type B virus—a kind of virus found only in humans—as last year. Both Type A viruses are different this year, according to the CDC.

Last year’s flu season was unusually long because the common flu virus changed through the season, making the vaccine less effective, Weadge said.

Everyone older than 6 months should get a flu shot. Even if the vaccine is not the best match, it can still lessen symptoms if not completely protect people from the flu, Weadge said.

People often mistake stomach viruses for the flu, she said.

Influenza is a respiratory infection. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, body aches, headache and fatigue. Some people might vomit, but that is more common in children than adults, Weadge said.

Those suffering from nausea, diarrhea and vomiting likely have something else, she said.

The best thing to do if you’re experiencing flu symptoms is to stay home and avoid other people, Weadge said.

If symptoms worsen, Weadge recommends consulting a doctor.

Providers across the county report all confirmed cases of the flu to the health department, which follows up with patients and reports data to the state, Weadge said.

The health department this year will provide flu shots for those who are underinsured or have no insurance, she said.

Most doctor’s offices and pharmacies offer flu shots to everyone else.

Anthony Wahl 

Janesville Craig’s Madalyn Arrowood, Ellie Lorenz and Ivy White, front center to back, compete during the Big Eight Conference Grade Level Challenge cross country meet at Rockport Park in Janesville on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

Obituaries and death notices for Sept. 18, 2019

Arlene M. Blaga

Jerry A. Brabazon

Gordon Cnare

Bonita “Bonnie” Flesch

Gary Lee Fritz

Kathryn “Leslie” Gaffney

Thorval “Duke” Grice

Joseph Robert Hookham

James Oscar Jacobson

Glendel “Glen” Parkhurst

Christine M. Pofahl

Fred J. Rhodes

Raymond C. Schweitzer

Wilbur G. Wiemuth

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Rock, Walworth counties each get an additional prosecutor

Rock and Walworth county prosecutors should see relief from heavy workloads with the first increase in the number of prosecutors in many years, local district attorneys said.

Rock County District Attorney David O’Leary and Walworth County District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld commented Tuesday after Gov. Tony Evers announced that 56 counties will see an increase in their budgets for assistant district attorneys.

Walworth County will see the number of assistant district attorneys increase from five to six, Rock County from 14 to 15.

The move addresses a longstanding complaint statewide that caseloads are overwhelming prosecutors.

Workload studies show Rock County should have three new prosecutors, and Walworth County should have 1.85, the DAs said.

Wiedenfeld said his prosecutors have been working nights and weekends and foregoing vacation to handle the work. State figures show the number of criminal cases filed in Walworth County has risen by 48% in the past five years, driven largely by misdemeanor cases.

O’Leary said his office stopped charging low-level misdemeanors, such as marijuana possession and shoplifting, years ago because of a lack of prosecutors. Those cases go to municipal courts or are treated like a traffic ticket.

Even with that reduction, assistant district attorneys average 500 cases a year, O’Leary said, adding: “The added resource is going to be greatly appreciated by my staff.”

The attorneys’ time also has been diverted to the county’s newer specialty courts, O’Leary said. The attorneys work in drug court, OWI court, veterans court and family court as part of a team that tries to address the roots of criminal behavior.

It’s possible OWI court could expand from the current practice and start taking fourth- and fifth-offense drunken driving cases, O’Leary said.

State figures show Rock County criminal cases have declined by 7% in the past five years. O’Leary said that’s a reflection of his decision not to charge some misdemeanors, but he said despite the decline, his prosecutors are still “overrun.”

Evers approved more than 60 new positions statewide, saying it was the first increase in the number of state prosecutors in more than 10 years.

”For far too long our county district attorney offices have been doing more with less,” Evers said in a news release. “This historic investment will enable our county officials to improve victim services, enhance diversion and treatment options for those struggling with substance use disorders, and address backlogs that are standing in the way of justice.

“We can’t make the critical changes needed to reform our criminal justice system in Wisconsin if our county district attorney offices are overworked and understaffed,” Evers said.

O’Leary said the new position will allow him to appoint one prosecutor to oversee bail recommendations as the county seeks to reduce bias and increase fairness in decisions that affect who must stay in jail pending court proceedings and who goes free.

O’Leary also hopes to dedicate an attorney to the county drug units to help with search warrants and advice on whether an arrest is warranted, and he wants to be able to send an attorney to oversee every CARE House interview, where children are questioned about abuse or neglect.

The increase was in the recently passed state budget, but until now, DAs did not know which counties would benefit, O’Leary said.

“I know that our local legislators have been working really hard to help us with our prosecutor shortage, and it was a big effort from lot of different people to make this happen. We really appreciate it and want the public to know we’re still going to be working hard for them,” Wiedenfeld said.