For the first time in 28 years a majority of Michigan voters chose a Republican president.
Although low voter turnout in big, democratic strongholds like Flint and Detroit played a role, exit polling shows rural voters turned out in record numbers to flip Michigan for Trump.
With the first female presidential candidate on the ballot this election, it was widely expected women would turnout in large numbers for Hillary Clinton. Most did. But exit polls still show 42% of women backed Trump. White, non-college educated women voted for Trump 2 to 1.
“I’d love to see a woman in the White House, but the right one. And I don’t believe she’s the right one at all,” said Anne Sawyers.
Sawyers and her husband own a small business in Grand Ledge, a town of 8,000 people west of the State Capitol. Grand Ledge is in Eaton County, which went for President Obama in 2012, but flipped for Trump in 2016.
Sawyers likes Trump’s shoot from the hip, tell it like it is style.
“With the Clintons you know, they have people, have speeches prepared for him. He speaks from his heart,” Sawyers said.
Her friend Amy Waldrop, who lives nearby, agrees; though she admits Trump’s comments are “unpolished” at times. Waldrop’s Trump vote was, first and foremost, a vote against Hillary Clinton, who she says she could never trust.
Waldrop says she was appalled at the pressure put on women to elect Clinton as the first female president.
“To some degree it’s insulting that they felt that we would vote for her just because she’s a woman rather than use our minds. It is worse than anything that Trump has said,” Waldrop said.
Creating jobs and increasing wages are the most important issues to these women. They also want to see more support for police officers and the military. They expect Obamacare will finally be repealed and replaced.
Waldrop and Sawyers weren’t happy with some of Trump’s controversial comments about women. But they were willing to look past them because of pocketbook issues.
So was Diane Schindlbeck, though she says the comments he made on the now infamous Access Hollywood tape were hard to hear.
“I also believe in forgiveness, and I know I have done things that I’m ashamed of and I know I’ve said things I wish I wouldn’t have,” she said.
I met Schindlbeck at a post-election party at a pizza-parlor-slash-Trump-campaign office in Muskegon.
With her bright red frames, bold, short red hair, and matching red fingernails; Schindlbeck stands out.
She’s not your reluctant Trump supporter.
She opened this Trump office before it was an official campaign office -- before the primaries --spending her own money.
So last month, when polls started to show Trump gaining major ground in Michigan, Schindlbeck took a chance, sacrificed big; she quit her nine to five job to volunteer fulltime for Trump.
“Yes, my husband kept looking at me,” she laughed. “I promise it’s going to pay off someday honey, I promise.”
She and her husband identify as blue collar workers. He’s a grave digger and she’s worked all sorts of jobs over the years.
“I’ve been very fortunate to always have a good job. But these last 10 years, I have never worked so hard for so little. I’m making the same amount today as I did back in 1993 and that’s why it’s like, 'OK, something has to change,” she said.
So two years ago she decided to follow her passion. She started plans for her own canine spa and kennel.
Schindlbeck has a business plan, a finance guy, and a lawyer; but local zoning regulations have stopped her from opening. She says the experience gave her newfound admiration for businessmen like Trump, who seem to be able to cut through red tape.
“I knew if I wanted to open my business, someday I had to get Trump elected,” she said.
Schindlbeck says America needs Trump to create opportunities for higher wages for working class people.
Schindlbeck is not surprised by the number of women in Michigan who voted for Trump because of her informal polling system.
“I actually have some vinyl door slabs on my car that says ‘West Michigan for Trump.’ More women would drive by and give me a thumbs up and smile than the middle finger,” Schindlbeck said.
Schindelbeck and many others here say gender just wasn’t a factor for them. Their issues were not gender specific. More than anything, they want to see the economy improve for working class people.
They’re confident that Donald Trump’s reputation as a dealmaker will win over even more women in 2020.