Despite backlash, Trump's Muslim travel ban resonates with supporters

Many of Donald Trump's supporters have been baffled by the widespread condemnation of his proposal to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the United States.

Charlie Neibergall/AP
An audience member holds a sign during a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Friday, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States sparked a firestorm of criticism last week, with rebukes from liberals and conservatives alike. The loyalty of his supporters, even in the face of intense backlash, suggests that Mr. Trump's suggestion has struck a deep chord with many voters.

Supporter Tracy Hooker still says Trump is “my guy.”

She realizes some people think it’s bigoted and others argue it’s impractical or illegal. Last week, the White House suggested the proposal renders Trump ineligible to become president. But for Ms. Hooker, it represents a logical solution. 

"Think about it. You don't know what you've got here. You've got no clue," she said of the Muslim tourists, immigrants, and refugees Trump wants to temporarily bar from coming to the US. "You don't know if they like us. You don't know if they hate us."

The Associated Press interviewed dozens of Trump supporters over the last week in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The pervading feeling toward Trump’s proposal is bafflement over the swift condemnation it received.

Iowa's Dale Witmer, a registered Republican and Word War II veteran, thinks Trump’s Muslim ban is a “great idea.” He said he didn’t “know how to comprehend” the backlash it received.

"I think it's been made into something it wasn't meant to be. I think basically what he's doing is saying, 'OK, wait a minute. Refugees, we need to make sure we know what we're looking for and to make sure everything is in place,' " Dan Edwards, a retired banker from Van Meter, Iowa, told the AP.

New Hampshire state Rep. Stephen Stepanek (R), Trump's campaign co-chairman in the state, said the reaction to Trump's proposal fit the pattern of his campaign: First outrage, then a realization that Trump hit the nail on the head.

"He's always one step ahead of all the other politicians in pointing out a problem. And everybody's outraged. And then all of a sudden they start analyzing what he said and realize, 'Oh my god, he's right,' " Representative Stepanek told AP. 

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll revealed that the majority of Americans, 57 percent, opposed the proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country. However, a slight majority of Republicans – 54 percent – support the idea.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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