Eric Bowen is the reason that a reality television star and real estate tycoon may be on the cusp of a moment nothing less than remarkable.
The 53-year-old plumber is angry, fed-up. He voted for Barack Obama eight years ago, but nothing has changed. Only a businessman can fix things.
So too, is Mike Shamsie. In fact, the 58-year-old from across the river in Illinois would admit to being furious, up-to-here with the politicians who have done this to the country. Trish Duffy is not happy either. She is not entirely sure who she will vote for, but she has come to see the man who “talks to this anger”.
More than seven months after he announced with trademark showmanship and self-assurance that he was running for the White House, Donald Trump has been carried to the Republicans’ pole position on a wave of and frustration and disgruntlement .
On Saturday evening, a respected, final poll before Monday night’s Iowa caucus - the first time people actually get to cast a vote in the 2016 presidential election - put the 69-year-old a full five points clear of his nearest Republican rival, Senator Ted Cruz.
And even if he was not about to thank God for his strong showing, Mr Trump was happy to suggest he had been borne to this point by the support of evangelical Christians as he addressed supporters - and the simply curious - in the town of Davenport. Sitting on stage with Jerry Fawell Jr, the president of the Christian Liberty University and son of the late preacher and activist Jerry Falwell Sr, Mr Trump embraced the endorsement from a section of the electorate he has courted vigorously.
Two weeks ago, Mr Trump took the pilgrimage made by all Republican candidates to the university’s Virginia campus, and addressed the students in an attempt to burnish his religious credentials. As it was, he rather fluffed his lines about the bible’s Second Corinthians, leading some on the religious right to question how genuine Mr Trump’s seemingly opportunistic embrace of God was.
Yet it was sufficient to earn him the backing of Mr Falwell, something that rivals such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz surely coveted.
On stage, Mr Trump thanked Mr Falwell and said he was certainly “a man of faith”. “Maybe I’m a little bit not as good as he is in that way. But I’m good,” he added.
Earlier, he said that Mr Falwell’s comment that of all the Republican candidates he was the most like the late Mr Falwell Sr, who died in 2007, “was the best endorsement for me”.
Mr Falwell, who stressed it was his own endorsement of Mr Trump rather than his college’s, added: “I did so because the country is at that point.”
Yet if, the evangelicals have helped push Mr Trump to where he stands, both polls and numerous interviews with his supporters in Iowa would suggest that it is the frustrated voter that the billionaire has made his bedrock.
A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll suggested that 73 per cent of voters intending to cast their vote in November’s presidential election, believe the US is heading in the wrong direction.
Most strikingly, such disaffected people make up a majority of the support bases for both Mr Trump and Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders - who has pushed himself to within a couple of points away from Ms Clinton - with 87 per cent and 54 per cent respectively.
Such individuals include people such as Jim Bodenpick, a 78-year-old who was being yelled at by his wife to hurry up and come inside the theatre on Saturday evening. He was concerned about the economy, about the government planning to declare “martial law” and take away all the guns. In all his many years, he said, he had never seen everything so “upside down”.
It may be tempting, especially from afar, to mock or question such comments and to believe that salvation rests in the hands of a man previously best known around the world as the host of The Apprentice. But in a nation of growing inequality and crumbling infrastructure, of surging globalism and mounting uncertainty, the frustrations expressed are real.
As the polls underscore, the same emotions and sense of dislocation are expressed by many those turning out in support of Mr Sanders, though his thoughts on the solutions to America’s challenges may be very different to Trump. (One young man, Marshall Lang, 28, who attended a Bernie Sanders rally in Davenport a night earlier, said if he was not backing the Vermont senator he would be voting for Mr Trump. “I’m a nationalist,” he explained.)
Mr Trump describes his entry to the political race as nothing less cinematic than a rescue story. He did not particularly want to run for the White House, he suggested to the crowd, but rather he and his wife were reluctantly acting out of a sense of duty and in response to the plight of the nation.
He said that on that June 16 afternoon when he swept down the stairs at Trump Tower in New York to meet the media and announce his candidacy, it was like “the Oscars”.
“I took a deep breath. I said 'let’s do this',” Mr Trump claimed. “What's happening to our country is so bad.”
And when asked about his solutions to the nation’s woes, such lack-of-doubt electrifies his answers. “We will beat Isis very quickly, folks.” President Trump would have secured the release of the prisoners held by Iran “in 48 hours”. “We’re going to bring back the jobs from the countries that have taken them. We’re going to bring those jobs back.”
And so it went on: confronting Muslim extremists, forcing Apple to manufacture its products in the US, promoting gun ownership to prevent attacks such as the one in Paris that took 130 lives, handling immigration. “You don’t have a country without borders.”
The angry and the disgruntled and the frustrated people cheered and clapped and got to their feet and waved placards.
Donald Trump, the man who may yet make the journey from reality television to the most powerful office in the world, smiled and waved and grinned. “You’re good people.”Reuse content