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At factory Trump highlighted, disappointment at lost jobs
[INDIANAPOLIS] Duane Oreskovic is disappointed in Donald Trump.
In 2016, he voted for the brash businessman in the hopes that the take-no-prisoners Republican would save his job at a Carrier furnace-making factory in the midwestern US city of Indianapolis.
Now, as Mr Trump's first anniversary in office approaches, Mr Oreskovic is unemployed.
"When President Trump came here and promised to save my job, I believed him - myself and a lot of other people," Mr Oreskovic said last week at a rally organized by a progressive political group in a restaurant near the plant.
"I was wrong. We were all wrong," he said.
'EVERYONE IS BLAMING TRUMP'
Of the many factors leading to Mr Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton in November 2016, one was the support the real estate mogul received from blue-collar workers in manufacturing towns across America's "Rust Belt."
Against the odds, Mr Trump - the Manhattanite with a silver spoon upbringing - captivated voters in key states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, where factories have been closing for decades and middle class wages disappearing.
But in Indiana, at least some workers are questioning their support of the president or have outright cast him aside, as the 2018 midterm elections loom, with control of Congress at stake.
Weeks before being sworn into office, Mr Trump personally intervened in the fate of Carrier, making a US$7 million tax incentive deal to keep the plant from moving to Mexico, and promising 1,100 jobs would be saved and more created.
A year on, there have been more than 500 layoffs at the Carrier plant alone. Other plants nearby have closed up or cut jobs.
Mr Trump's deal with Carrier did save approximately 800 assembly line jobs. But workers here expected more, Mr Oreskovic says.
"As of right now, everyone is blaming Trump," he told AFP, adding that he would not vote for the president again.
'PURE AND SIMPLE CONMAN'
Last week's rally near the Carrier plant was organized by "Good Jobs Nation," which aligns itself with Bernie Sanders, the US senator from Vermont who challenged Clinton for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
The group's presence indicates a political opening for Democrats in Indiana, a traditionally Republican-leaning state, in the wake of the chronic layoffs.
The disappointment has made a political star of the man who predicted what would happen: Chuck Jones, who was president of the workers' union when Mr Trump announced the Carrier deal.
At the time, Mr Jones questioned how many jobs would actually be saved, earning Mr Trump's ire on Twitter.
Now, Mr Jones is running for local office.
"Donald Trump is a liar and an idiot," he told rally participants.
"He's a pure and simple conman," he added.
"I've talked to people who have had to pull children out of college," he said. "Pretty soon, people's homes are foreclosed on... by then, a lot of the individuals are ending up with drug addiction or alcoholism."
A November survey conducted by Indiana's Ball State University found 45 percent of voters in the state disapproved of the president's job performance and only 41 percent approved.
Mr Trump easily won Indiana - the home state of Vice-President Mike Pence - in 2016, by 19 points over Mrs Clinton.
"An argument can be made that there are some promises made and maybe not delivered," Chad Kinsella, a political science professor at Ball State, told AFP.
"There's going to be a political fallout from that."
But Larry Sabato, director of the Centre for Politics at the University of Virginia, said Trump remains a potent political force, and there is no sign that his supporters are abandoning him en masse.
"People can be patient. They don't necessarily think a candidate is going to change the world overnight. And a lot of them blame Congress," Mr Sabato told AFP.
'GIVE HIM A CHANCE'
At the Carrier plant, some side with Mr Oreskovic, but his colleagues have not all stepped off the Trump train just yet.
"Some of our members are still supporting the president," Robert James, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1999, told AFP.
"Some of those people today, what they will tell you is: 'give him a chance.'"
Mr Trump is buoyed in no small measure by a booming economy that has lifted even the manufacturing sector with 196,000 more jobs in 2017, according to the US Department of Labor.
But many of those are high-skilled jobs such as robotics operation.
The chairman of Indiana's Republican Party, Kyle Hupfer, believes a strong economy is a persuasive argument for Mr Trump's policies.
"The president is very popular here," Mr Hupfer told AFP, adding that the core reasons for which Mr Trump won the state have not changed.
"The belief that the country needs to be reformed, the belief that conservative values need to win out... that is unchanged."