ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Our co-host Robert Siegel is in the swing state of Ohio this week. No Republican president has ever been elected without winning that state. Some traditional Republicans - the state's governor, John Kasich, for one - have resisted Donald Trump's novel take on Republican politics this year. But as Robert is hearing among some Ohio voters, the enthusiasm for Trump is intense.
ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: There's much talk this year about angry voters, but the mood at Clark County Republican headquarters in a storefront is Springfield, Ohio, strip mall is anything but angry. Yesterday the volunteers, many of them seniors, were cheerfully preparing yard signs that say Trump and Pence, stretching the plastic signs over the wire frames.
They didn't have the ones here that say Hillary for prison, but I'm told that in Ohio, those go the fastest. Donald Trump's detractors may fault him for political incorrectness, but in that department, he has got nothing on his most fervent supporters.
LAURA ROSENBERGER: You got the Hillary toilet paper - no way.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Inaudible).
ROSENBERGER: You know what I did with my Obama toilet paper?
SIEGEL: That's Trump campaign volunteer Laura Rosenberger. She resents and defies a stereotype of college-educated women who were turned off by Donald Trump. She has a graduate degree. She used to teach, and she is more pro-Trump than she is pro-Republican.
ROSENBERGER: And I actually haven't voted for two years because I'm so upset at the political process. So I'm not a strict true Republican voter, so to speak, like many other people who may be here today.
SIEGEL: Is it fair to say that Donald Trump has made you an enthusiastic Republican voter this year?
SIEGEL: Next election, she says, it'll depend on who's running. But this election, she's all in. Yesterday afternoon, she was knocking on doors of potential Trump voters, often people with connections to the party as tenuous as hers. They live in a small, working-class neighborhood behind the strip mall.
(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)
SIEGEL: At this house, the man who comes to the door answers to the name Sir Norman Gray and describes himself as a disabled, retired veteran. In Ohio, there is a great deal of early voting.
ROSENBERGER: Did you vote for Trump or Clinton?
NORMAN GRAY: Yeah.
ROSENBERGER: Which one?
ROSENBERGER: Trump - very good. Would you like a yard sign or a bumper sticker for Mr. Trump?
GRAY: Sure. I'll live dangerous.
ROSENBERGER: All right.
SIEGEL: Mr. Gray, or as he prefers, Sir Norman, has a sense of humor.
ROSENBERGER: Are you the only registered voter in this house?
GRAY: Yeah. They wouldn't let me register my companion dog, so...
ROSENBERGER: Oh, too bad.
ROSENBERGER: We could've gotten him to vote, too, for Trump.
SIEGEL: These are small, one-story homes, many in disrepair, typically a satellite dish on the roof, the front lawn often enclosed in a chain link fence.
(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)
SHIRLEY MALLICK: I hear you.
MALLICK: Retiree Shirley Mallick's House appears to be in good shape, and she keeps a well-tended garden in the front.
ROSENBERGER: And how did you vote - early vote or absentee?
MALLICK: We voted absentee.
ROSENBERGER: OK. If you don't mind - the presidential?
MALLICK: Trump all the way.
SIEGEL: Shirley Mallick used to work as a certified nursing assistant and also as a bartender.
MALLICK: I'm going to be 69 in January. I have never voted, but I couldn't restrain myself this year.
SIEGEL: What was it about Donald Trump that inspired her so?
MALLICK: He's not a politician, plain and simple.
SIEGEL: She reasons that means no dirty money coming into his campaign. Shirley Mallick also says that her bartending experience makes her tolerant of Donald Trump's offensive language captured on videotape.
MALLICK: You know what? Any American man that would honestly say they never talk that way - shame, shame, shame on them.
SIEGEL: After an hour of canvassing, Laura Rosenberger's tally was five Trump voters and two Clinton voters. There were a few who wouldn't say or were undecided and still more who weren't home.
What does it look like to you when we walk through this neighborhood?
ROSENBERGER: It looks like economic devastation. It really does. This is the result of the Clinton policies.
ROSENBERGER: Specifically NAFTA. In fact, manufacturing here was on the decline long before that. But to her, the North American Free Trade Agreement is the culprit.
ROSENBERGER: People here are either out of work, or they're working service sector jobs if they're lucky, you know, like at Wal-Mart or wherever up here. You can get a job up here, but it's - what? - going to pay you minimum wage.
SIEGEL: Springfield, Ohio, used to be home to a big publishing company and a steel wool manufacturer. There were great jobs to be had at the International Harvester plant. It's now called Navistar. And there were plenty of those jobs.
At the local Republican headquarters, I met Paul Weaver. He's 78 and says he worked at Navistar for almost 35 years painting cars. He was a longtime union member who says he used to vote Democratic. Now he's a Republican volunteer. It's his first campaign, and he says Donald Trump has changed the Republican Party by speaking to people like him.
PAUL WEAVER: I watched our company lose thousands of jobs before my employment ended. What he says right now about our manufacturing - I mean I can't even tell you how many people worked at one time at Navistar. It's down to around a thousand people right now. And these are good people.
I back somebody like Donald Trump who cares about America. How do you know that? Well, how many years have we been in the direction we're going. We're in worse shape than we've ever been in my entire lifetime.
SIEGEL: One question for the Republican Party is whether win or lose in the presidential race this year it can embrace policies that continue to attract voters like Paul Weaver, Shirley Mallick and Laura Rosenberger. Tomorrow I'll ask some Republican Party officials and office holders what they think. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.