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Trump Voters In Iowa Pledge Not To Waiver Their Support For The President

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

When President Trump appeared to move towards a deal with Democrats on immigration last week, many members of his political base felt let down. The reported deal involves finding a way to save DACA. That's the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is an Obama-era order which protects immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Critics of DACA view it as amnesty, but as Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters reports, the party faithful who attended a Republican event in Iowa over the weekend were still willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt.

CLAY MASTERS: Rewind to January of 2016. Donald Trump was a presidential candidate running in a sea of Republican hopefuls. Here he was in Sioux Center, Iowa, just days before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's, like, incredible.

MASTERS: Now the president, Donald Trump might be facing the ultimate test. Last week reports surfaced that the president had met with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to save DACA, a deal that might not include funding for a border wall, a key part of his campaign. Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King tweeted when the reports surfaced that if true, Trump's base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable and disillusioned beyond repair.

DICK GABRIEL: I don't think it'll break up the base because I think those that are behind him will be behind him permanently.

MASTERS: That's Dick Gabriel, a retired education administrator from Indianola, Iowa. He was one of the hundreds gathered Saturday night for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Fall Family Banquet in Des Moines. They were there to eat fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cookies and to hear from Iowa's top elected Republicans. Gabriel does not have strong feelings about DACA, but he says the president is taking care of immigration even if the wall hasn't been built.

GABRIEL: The idea of the wall is to reduce illegal immigration, and he hasn't even put up a wall yet and look how much it's been reduced.

MASTERS: Also at the banquet was John Kerber from Johnston, Iowa. He works in computer security. He says he expected the president to get more done with Republican control in Congress, but...

JOHN KERBER: He's possibly able to get more done by working with Democrats. And if that happens then I guess we're getting more independent, perhaps.

MASTERS: Kerber says he does not think DACA should have ever existed. For Kelsey Bayliss, a pharmacist from Wellman, Iowa, she thinks DACA is a good thing and praises the president for meeting with Democratic leaders.

KELSEY BAYLISS: I think the wall itself will be built. I think it is good to work with Democrats. With regards to DACA, I think there is a mutual agreement on everything. And we need to forget who's Republican, we need to forget who's Democrat and work for the better of this country.

MASTERS: Her husband, Austin, agrees.

AUSTIN BAYLISS: I think this is the beginning of the art of the deal. And it's about time.

MASTERS: None of Saturday night's speakers, including Congressman Steve King, addressed DACA. When Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann took to the podium, he had strong words about backing the president.

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JEFF KAUFMANN: We will absolutely stand behind President Donald Trump. We will not waver and we will not move away. He is our president and we are proud of him as the Republican Party of Iowa. Period.

MASTERS: The crowd applauded. Some even gave the commitment a standing ovation. For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.