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Donald Trump fans are not actually hard to find in California

In a state as blue as California, does Donald Trump have any support?

Absolutely.

Probably not enough to take the state in November, if he's the Republican presidential nominee. But in a January poll of California's GOP voters, Trump and Ted Cruz were pretty much tied for the lead.

A couple of weeks ago, when I wrote about Latino voters who have issues with Trump, I got complaints from readers who wanted more balance. One reader took me to task for not seeking out Latinos who support Trump. If he knew some, I replied, I'd be happy to speak to them.

He emailed back to say that of the three Latinos he contacted, two had switched to Ted Cruz and the third didn't want her name used.

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That's not to say I didn't hear from Latinos who support Trump. I did.

And Latinos aside, Trump fans are not hard to find. I made a phone call to a Republican Party official in the Inland Empire who knew of an avid Trump supporter, who referred me to another, who referred me to another.

Just to be clear, I don't think much of Trump. I understand the appeal of an anti-establishment candidate. But I'd prefer someone better informed and more grown up.

Others see it differently, and my intention was not to dispute what they had to say.

It was to listen.

"I'm totally impressed, and think Trump would be the perfect person to run our country. It should be run as a business because that's what it is," said Patricia Bowler, 72, of Diamond Bar.

The day I called, Bowler had just finished reading Trump's book, "Crippled America," and was eager to read his others.

She knew Trump was her candidate, Bowler said, when he announced his candidacy last June. That was the speech in which Trump said Mexico was sending us "people that have lots of problems.... They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

This struck a chord with Bowler.

"We don't know who's coming in," she told me. "You can't have them pouring in like they do every day, costing us a fortune … and it's not fair to people who are waiting in line to come here legally."

Cheryl Wiseman, 70, of Ontario picked up where Bowler left off.

"There are too many people getting freebies, too many illegals draining our resources, and as soon as they come here they get on welfare and food stamps, especially if they come here and have a baby," Wiseman said. "The more you do for people, the less they do for themselves."

Wiseman, a retired instructional aide, said she knows Latinos who agree with her.

"They hate all these illegals coming in here, and in fact I was talking to someone who said you know, three generations ago, when people came in, they were different. The values were different than the ones coming in here now."

On national security, Wiseman said she supports Trump's call to temporarily stop Muslims from entering the country. She referred me to a friend and Trump supporter named Sean Ponce, a 48-year-old architect from Fontana, who took that thought one step further.

"Obama, he's Islam," Ponce said.

I wasn't sure I heard correctly, so I asked if he meant that the president was a Muslim.

"Yeah, that's his root," Ponce said. "No one in his right mind would sit there and get bullied by Iraq.... Islam is one big fat lie, and that's where he's lost it."

Trump, as Ponce sees it, says what needs to be said.

"He just tells the truth and doesn't care about the money and the power," said Ponce, who told me his roots are Hispanic.

Which Trump ideas does he like best?

"The idea that we don't buy from China. And we shut the borders."

But Trump alone can't save us, in Ponce's view.

"We definitely need more God in this country," he said, and he dreads the very thought of a President Hillary Clinton.

"If Hillary gets in, it'll be like the Wild West in the United States. There'll be killing going on, bomb threats, Islamic killings. We're going to have financial collapse. It's going to be like a Third World country, which is what the Communists want."

Richard Keeling, a Torrance resident, said it's unfair to characterize Trump supporters as nothing but uneducated "blue-collar losers."

A retired anthropologist and musicologist, Keeling thinks Trump would fix trade deficits. He thinks tighter borders would ease the burden of healthcare and other social costs related to illegal immigration. He thinks Trump would turn Russia into a stronger ally.

He doesn't mind Trump's New York tough guy manner, and thinks the real phonies, with nothing but empty rhetoric, are GOP establishment guys like Mitt Romney.

But his main thing is that he wants an end to decades of U.S. involvement in Middle East conflicts.

"The neocons and everybody else are trying to be globalist," Keeling said. "They wanna control things that go on on other continents. I would like to withdraw and concentrate on our problems. Trump is a nationalist, and that's what I like best about him."

One reader, who did not give me permission to use her name, told me she was a proud third-generation Mexican American whose relatives came up through sweatshops and worked for what they have.

She blasted me for writing that illegal immigration is about human survival, that we send mixed signals by looking the other way in hiring and that Trump is scapegoating for political gain.

"We Mexicans from the areas you report from, the latest being Boyle Heights, my old neighborhood, are not anti-Trump. We are a large group who will vote for Trump regardless of your biased views," she wrote.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 09, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Trump backers respond" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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