As President Donald Trump approaches the 100-day mark in the White House, The Wall Street Journal revisited voters in six counties representing the economic underpinnings of his support. In each county, the Journal spoke to supporters, converts, abstainers and opponents to see how their economic situation is changing, and whether their expectations are being met.
MONESSEN, Pa. -- This former steel town south of Pittsburgh is still struggling under a mountain of debt.
Today, the city's biggest employer, with 180 workers, is a plant that turns coal into coke to make steel elsewhere. But hollow buildings line the downtown streets, and topping the mayor's demolition list is a corner building whose fancy brickwork is less noticeable than its empty windows and the trees sprouting from its roof.
Few, if any, expected a quick turnaround in Monessen during Mr. Trump first days in office. "We're talking about 30 to 40 years of disinvestment, and you can't reverse that on a dime," said Jason Togyer, a spokesman for the Mon Valley Initiative, an economic development nonprofit that works in Monessen and other communities south of Pittsburgh.
The group helped secure funding for the conversion of the abandoned building that once housed an Eisenberg's department store into 13 residential housing units. It is one of the bright spots in Monessen. Construction is expected to be completed in June.
But even that project is a lesson in how long it can take to turn around a blighted steel town. The store, which opened about 100 years ago, closed in 1997 and stood vacant for nearly 20 years before renovations began.
Some residents are willing to give Trump more time, but others are growing impatient and want more action on the president's promise to reinvigorate the steel sector.
GOLOMB THEN: "Our jobs are sent overseas to China. People got fed up. I voted for Trump without hesitation, and I'm a registered Democrat."
GOLOMB NOW: "I thought, Man, this guy is going to bring back our jobs. And it's talk, meaningless talk."
John Golomb, 65 years old, voted for Donald Trump last fall. But says his patience has already worn thin.
He points to what he sees as the president's early stumbles and too little movement on the jobs front. After years of voting for Democrats, he now doubts his decision to cast a ballot for Mr. Trump. "I voted for this gentleman, and now I don't know how to feel," he said.
Mr. Golomb said he believed Mr. Trump's promises to reinvigorate the steel sector but that the president's recent memorandum opening an investigation into whether cheap steel imports could affect national security wasn't enough. "He's had enough time to breathe life back into American steel," Mr. Golomb said.
He said he was troubled by the administration's handling of the FBI investigation into whether there was collusion between Mr. Trump's presidential campaign and Russia. "Is the truth dead in the White House?" Mr. Golomb asked.
Jocelyn Golomb, 20, who voted for Hillary Clinton, has witnessed her father's change of heart. She said she was glad her father has come closer to her views on the president. "My father should have listened to me in the first place," she said.
TERENSKY THEN: "He's like me. He says what he's thinking about, to hell with everybody else."
TERENSKY NOW: "All the jobs aren't going to come back. But at least he's trying."
Emory Terensky, a 66-year-old Republican and Air Force veteran, says people like his lifelong friend, Mr. Golomb, need to give the president more time to make good on his pledge to bring back steel and other industrial jobs.
Messrs. Terensky and Golomb grew up on the same street in the former steel town. Years later, after they lost their jobs when the mill in Monessen shut down, they drove together every day for 16 years to another in Ohio. Both men put their hopes in Mr. Trump to spark a revival of the manufacturing sector that would lift Monessen.
"It's a positive," Mr. Terensky said of the president's focus on steel imports. "It shows that he's doing something. Obama did absolutely nothing for the steel industry."
Mr. Terensky likes Mr. Trump's attempts to temporarily restrict some refugees from entering the U.S. and applauds his push to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Terensky dismissed the FBI probe into ties between Mr. Trump's campaign and Russia. "It's so partisan, it's laughable," he said.
He blamed the courts and Democrats in Congress for thwarting some of Mr. Trump's early efforts. "No matter what, Democrats stick together," he said. "They're trying to gang up on him."
DAVIS THEN: "I just feel that he's duped a lot of people."
DAVIS NOW: "Unless he changes, I don't think there will be a lot accomplished."
Marvin Davis, city code-enforcement officer and Hillary Clinton voter, said Mr. Trump's first days in office hadn't changed his low expectations for the president.
Mr. Davis, 66, has opposed Mr. Trump's efforts to institute a temporary travel ban on some refugees entering the U.S. and his attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and then replace it, though he said the moves weren't unexpected given Mr. Trump's campaign promises.
Beyond this, Mr. Davis said he thinks Mr. Trump needs to build a broader consensus on issues, instead of relying on a tight circle of advisers. He also wants Mr. Trump to speak to the nation more inclusively.
"One of the things that really troubles me, is that Donald Trump feels that he can work the country the way he worked his businesses," Mr. Davis said. "I think he's got to open his mind and heart to other people, Democrats as well."
He recalled that Mr. Trump visited Monessen during the campaign last year, and he said he thought many voters had been "bamboozled" by talk of reviving the steel industry.
"There are some people here that still think he can do some things here, " he said. But he doesn't think Mr. Trump will return to the region unless he runs for office again. "I don't think we'll ever see him again."
Write to Kris Maher at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 23, 2017 11:18 ET (15:18 GMT)