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In Trump country, these voters aren't feeling any buyer's remorse

A large Trump-Pence sign sits on the side of a road in Carbon County, PA, an area Trump overwhelmingly won.
Jacob Pramuk | CNBC
A large Trump-Pence sign sits on the side of a road in Carbon County, PA, an area Trump overwhelmingly won.

WILKES BARRE, Pa. — Donald Trump moves into the Oval Office on Friday as the most disliked president to do so in recent memory, but many voters in this blue collar area who helped him win the White House have not lost faith amid a bizarre transition.

Kerri Lieback, who voted for President Barack Obama twice, said mistrust of Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server at the State Department contributed to her vote for Trump. Still, Trump's recent admission that he may not have meant his controversial campaign pledge to "lock her up" does not bother Lieback.

"It's all stuff that when he was saying it I thought it was for shock value. There's nothing set in stone, just like with every other president," said Lieback, a 43-year-old mother who waits tables at the Alpine Downtown Eatery.

The period since the November election has seen Trump apparently contradict some campaign promises, clash with U.S. intelligence officials, provoke foreign powers and feud with political rivals on Twitter. Still, most Trump voters in the former Democratic stronghold counties of Luzerne and Northampton who spoke to CNBC said they have seen nothing yet to make them waver in supporting him.

"I have the highest confidence in this guy. I think this guy will stand up to anybody," said John Cordora, a 63-year-old retired business broker from the borough of Luzerne who played down Trump's frequent tweets and choices of wealthy business people for Cabinet spots.

John Cordora, 63, sits in the Bakehouse coffee shop in Kingston, PA. Cordora, who says he supported Trump from the day he launched his campaign, has no problem with Trump’s wealthy Cabinet picks because of their business success.
Jacob Pramuk | CNBC
John Cordora, 63, sits in the Bakehouse coffee shop in Kingston, PA. Cordora, who says he supported Trump from the day he launched his campaign, has no problem with Trump’s wealthy Cabinet picks because of their business success.

Those who support Trump are not in the majority as he takes office, according to recent surveys. A Gallup poll this month said only 44 percent of respondents approved of his postelection efforts, compared with 51 percent who disapproved. Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton had ratings of 83 percent, 61 percent and 68 percent, respectively, before their first inaugurations, according to Gallup.

Cordora and Lieback are among the voters who helped Trump to surprise Clinton by less than 1 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania, a key swing state that last backed a Republican president in 1988. Wilkes-Barre is the seat of eastern Pennsylvania's Luzerne County, which voted for Trump by 58.3 percent to 38.9 percent after backing Obama in 2008 and 2012.

The county lagged the rest of the state slightly with an unseasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.7 percent in November, higher than the statewide rate of 4.9 percent. Wilkes-Barre, among other cities in Pennsylvania and the wider Rust Belt, has been hit by manufacturing job losses. Trump held a rally here in October, drilling his pledge to return jobs to the U.S.

"They've taken our jobs out of Pennsylvania. We're going to be bringing them back, folks. Believe me," Trump said at the time.

Drivers navigating through parts of eastern Pennsylvania could still see remnants of the Trump campaign in early January. A red "lock her up" sign was pinned to trees along a highway. A large blue "Trump Pence" sign towered over a winding road in Carbon County, which sits next to Luzerne.

"It's all stuff that when he was saying it I thought it was for shock value. There's nothing set in stone, just like with every other president." -Kerri Lieback, mother of two, on not being bothered by unfulfilled Trump promises.

In downtown Wilkes-Barre, a green central square is flanked by banks, restaurants and corporate franchises. Going down the streets that branch from it, pedestrians see small businesses and shops peppered with several storefronts advertising space for rent.

A store front sits empty in downtown Wilkes-Barre, PA. The city’s central area is peppered with multiple vacant retail spaces alongside small businesses and franchises.
Jacob Pramuk | CNBC
A store front sits empty in downtown Wilkes-Barre, PA. The city’s central area is peppered with multiple vacant retail spaces alongside small businesses and franchises.

Voters who backed Trump in the area largely still have confidence in him after seeing his transition to the office. Most said they had no problem with Trump's Twitter rants toward political opponents, companies or even foreign governments, as they voted for Trump because he defied political norms.

Cordora said his views have not changed since he mainly supported Trump because he felt he was best equipped to defeat the so-called Islamic State terror group. He also said he felt that Trump threw out what he called a "political correctness that favors minorities," a tone that has largely not changed since November.

He also defended Trump picking Goldman Sachs veterans and wealthy Republican donors for top administration jobs after his campaign's repeated attacks on the influential firm and pledges to hold elites accountable.

"He wants people that have proven they can get the job done economically and financially," Cordora said.

Another area voter, 71-year-old Joseph Mrozoski, said he believes that if Trump "allows the people that he picked to advise him," he will succeed. However, Mrozoski, who first supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president before voting for Trump in the general election, said he has often felt Trump should act more "presidential."

Of course, many voters in the area are not excited about the prospect of a Trump presidency. Cordora and Mrozoski frequent the Bakehouse Bakery and Cafe in Kingston, which is next to Wilkes-Barre.

The shop, which was crowded on a Thursday morning in early January and plays Fox News on a corner television, often features political debate among patrons. Dan Menges, a 57-year-old laborer and former IT professional who lives in Kingston, is one of the shop's customers who debates with Cordora.

Menges, who voted for Hillary Clinton, said he has seen some "troubling" behavior from Trump since he became president-elect. He cited his "outspoken" behavior and tendency to chime in on foreign policy before he took office, a break with precedent.


Derric Raspa, 20, works at The Video Game Store in Wilkes-Barre, PA and identifies as a Democrat. He believes the area was drawn to Trump by his views on gun ownership and the economy.
Jacob Pramuk | CNBC
Derric Raspa, 20, works at The Video Game Store in Wilkes-Barre, PA and identifies as a Democrat. He believes the area was drawn to Trump by his views on gun ownership and the economy.

Derric Raspa, a 20-year-old who works at The Video Game Store in Wilkes-Barre, voted for Clinton and said Trump has shown he may be working for himself rather than others.

"He's all for business, but it seems like he might be more for himself, for his business," he said.

Trump has stirred controversy by declining to divest his global business holdings, leaving the potential for him or his family to benefit financially from his presidency.

Randy Zimmermann, 39, opened the Artifice Fly Company in Easton, PA, late last year. He said Trump would lose credibility with him if he fails to get companies to bring jobs back to the United States.
Jacob Pramuk | CNBC
Randy Zimmermann, 39, opened the Artifice Fly Company in Easton, PA, late last year. He said Trump would lose credibility with him if he fails to get companies to bring jobs back to the United States.

In Northampton County, about an hour's drive south from Luzerne, Trump voters had also found little reason to lose confidence in him. Trump won the county with 49.9 percent, after Obama won it with 51.7 percent in 2012.

Randy Zimmermann, 39, opened the Artifice Fly Company in Easton, Northampton's county seat, late last year after moving from Colorado. While he voted absentee in his old state, he cast his ballot for Trump.

Zimmermann said Trump's efforts to pressure companies like General Motors to move some car production back to the United States from Mexico impressed him. He added that failure to get corporations to create more jobs in the U.S. would be the main thing that would make Trump lose credibility with him.

Many Pennsylvania voters who spoke to CNBC noted Trump's unpredictability, a major caveat in saying how they think they will feel about his administration. Trump has often jumped among different stances on the same policy issue, sometimes in the same day.

While Lieback said she has confidence in Trump for now, she does not know if that will change.

Said Lieback: "That's the one thing about Trump. You don't know what he's going to do."

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