Polls show that the bulk of Trump’s support comes from men who lack a college degree and make less than $40,000 a year, the kind of workers who once formed the backbone of the U.S. manufacturing economy. They have helped propel Trump to the top of popularity rankings in South Carolina, a key early primary state, where he is outpacing rival Ben Carson.
“Some of the Republicans get so tied up with free trade,” said Lee Cole, a Republican attorney from nearby Williamston who attended Trump’s event. “Over the past 20 years, we’ve lost all of our manufacturing jobs,” Cole said of his hometown. “Anything that talks about getting some of that back I think really resonates well here.”
Government data shows that less than 30 percent of Americans have four-year college degrees and more than half of U.S. workers make less than $30,000 a year, so at stake is a vast pool of potential voters.
“He’s tapped into an uneasiness, and he’s done it cleverly,” said Chip Felkel, a Republican strategist in Greenville, South Carolina, who is not aligned with Trump. “He’s played it to the hilt.”