As President Donald Trump hits 100 days in office on Saturday, opinion in South Florida appears to be every bit as polarized as it was on Election Day almost six months ago.
- Ruben Kagan, who lives west of Boynton Beach, thinks Trump “is the best thing that ever happened.” Melissa Nocera, who lives west of Boca Raton, thinks “he’s narcissistic and out of his mind.”
- Randall Bishop, of Sunrise, is worried that Trump’s handing of the nuclear threat from North Korea could end in World War III. Sandor Goldstein, a Wisconsonite who spends some of his cold weather time in West Boca — and whose son is an Air Force physician stationed in South Korea — is confident the president’s approach will keep his son safe.
- Leslie Fleming, of Lighthouse Point, praises Trump as “a fighter. He’s trying to do everything he promised.” Her husband, Scott, said he’s troubled by what he sees as Trump’s impulsive flip-flopping and called the president’s behavior “embarrassing” for the country.
As Trump reaches the 100-day mark, interviews in recent days with 34 people in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties show widely divergent — and intense — views about the real estate developer turned reality TV show host turned president.
As you might expect, Republicans and independents who voted for Trump turned in many grades of A for his first 100 days. Democrats and independents who voted last year for Hillary Clinton mostly gave Ds and Fs. Only a handful of people judged him in the middle, with a C.
The divergent assessments show up in public opinion polls.
- Trump was viewed favorably by 45 percent of Florida voters and unfavorably by 41 percent in a survey released this week by Firehouse Strategies, a public affairs consulting firm, and 0ptimus, a data analytics firm. The survey has a 2.7 margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. Firehouse is led by people who used to work for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and 0ptimus did data work for Rubio’s unsuccessful 2018 presidential campaign.
- A nationwide University of Southern California Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Daybreak poll this week, which asked a slightly different question, found 40 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s performance and 46 percent disapprove. The margin of error was 2 percentage points.
- The intensity of Florida voters’ feelings jumps out within the favorable/unfavorable ratings. A total of 38 percent have a strongly favorable view of Trump, with just 7 percent viewing him somewhat favorably. And 36 percent have a strongly unfavorable view, while 5 percent are somewhat unfavorable.
- The intensity shown in the poll reinforces what Patty Miranda has seen at her restaurant in Deerfield Beach. Miranda has owned the Olympia Flame Diner for 25 years, and said the amount and intensity of political discussions skyrocketed around the time of last summer’s presidential nomination conventions – and it hasn’t let up.
“There’s definitely more political talk,” Miranda said. “It’s more passionate, absolutely.”
It’s showing up among families, including the Flemings, who discussed the president after breakfast this week at Olympia Flame. They’re independents who both voted for Democrat Barack Obama, but cast different ballots last year — Scott Fleming, 55, for Clinton; Leslie Fleming, 53, for Trump — last year.
Gary Nocera, 54, a West Boca Republican, voted for Trump. Democrat Melissa Nocera, 48, voted for Clinton. They disagreed over the president over lunch this week at Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen in West Boca.
“His heart’s in the right place and people are hoping like hell he’s going to be able to do what he said he was going to do,” he said. Wrong, she said. Melisa Nocera is concerned that Trump is so unstable he’ll get the country into a conflict that will cost lives. She said she can’t think of a single positive thing he’s done as president.
There’s also debate over the 100-day benchmark.
For decades — since Franklin D. Roosevelt — 100 has been judgment day for presidents. Recently, Trump has complained that it’s a phony, artificial deadline, calling it “the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days.” He called it “an artificial barrier. It’s not very meaningful” in an interview with The Associated Press.
But when he was campaigning for the job, Trump promised he’d have immense accomplishments to show at the 100-day mark and issued a “contract with the American voter” containing his plans. And days after Trump said the 100-day threshold didn’t mean anything, the White House issued a list of actions that touts his 100 days.
Trump supporter Don Koury, 54, of Boca Raton, said it’s “really unfair” to judge the president after 100 days. “Let the man have a chance to do his job. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
But Ron Pomerantz, 63, a Hollywood Democrat who voted for Clinton, said 100 days of Trump as president is plenty of time for the country to judge its leader. “At 100 days we don’t expect miracles. We don’t expect a changed society. It certainly sets the tone for what’s coming,” he said. “This is a presidency that will proceed through four years with little to no results and perhaps major negative results.”
Bishop, 48, who also voted for Clinton, also gave the president a negative rating. “I can’t say anything very good,” he said. “He absolutely showed us who he was in the campaign and he showed us who he is. No surprises.”
And Dottie Weinstein, a Democrat in her 80s who lives west of Boynton Beach and voted for Clinton, said she didn’t trust Trump. “He’s an immature human being. I don’t feel what he’s doing is in the best interests of the country.”
Kagan, her husband, who is also in his 80s, voted Republican. He said it’s time the country had someone, like Trump, who could “stop the B.S.”
Sal Caliendo, of Boca Raton, said the president is “doing great,” adding that he’s especially happy that Trump is “getting rid of the cryberries.”
And Mary Barnett, 60, of Sunrise, gives the president kudos.
“I think he’s great. He’s done everything he said [he would],” she said, crediting him with saving American jobs and “finally dealing” with the threat from the Islamic State.
Some Republicans, including Barnett, were unhappy that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, hasn’t been repealed and replaced as Trump and her party’s congressional candidates promised. Barnett blames Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, not Trump.
And Pete Palmer, 43, of Coral Springs, who is active in the Republican Party, doesn’t fault Trump for the failure to act on health care. “I don’t put this on Trump. The Republicans [in Congress] blew health care.”
Even though Trump promised during the campaign that Obamacare would be repealed and replaced by now, Koury said he didn’t expect resolution so soon. “I didn’t expect it overnight, but it would be nice to have some direction,” he said. “For self-employed people, it’s a big deal.” He’s a self-employed civil engineer who pays for his health coverage.
There was one area of agreement that crossed party lines. Many people said they didn’t like the president’s use of Twitter.
Robert Fiedorowicz, 69, a Republican from Deerfield Beach, said presidential tweeting reduced the grade he’s willing to give Trump to A minus from A. “He’s the president. He shouldn’t tweet. That’s where the minus comes from. The tweeting, it’s hard to defend.”
Palmer also dinged Trump, giving him an A minus for the same reason. “He still needs to rein in the Twitter account.”
Natoshia Melvin, 40, of Deerfield Beach, who voted for Clinton, said she’s exhausted by the president’s use of social media. “As the president he should be focusing on the things we need to focus on and not stoop to this level.”
Scott Fleming, the Lighthouse Point independent, intensely dislikes the president’s use of social media. “The thing that drives me crazy is the tweeting. It shows a lack of control and immaturity.”