With the California primary still six weeks away, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is enjoying an 18-point lead in the polls over Ted Cruz, but he's taking no chances in his quest to make California great (again). The Trump campaign just hired a state political strategist, and later this month, Trump himself will visit the Bay Area to give the keynote speech at the Republican state convention in Burlingame.
And Trump, who already enjoys support from donors in San Francisco — where his Trump Organization is minority owner of 555 California St., the city's biggest office building — is winning support from unlikely quarters in the city.
“I love Trump,” says John Ayoub, a 40-year-old Arab-American student at San Francisco State University.
Last month, SF State's Republican Student Union — representing no more than 40 students — endorsed Trump for president.
Student protesters have tried to disrupt their attempts at pro-Trump agitating since then, at one point blasting the YG & Nipsey Hussle song “Fuck Donald Trump.” But on a recent Tuesday, no one is bugging Ayoub and two other students as they sit behind a table with Trump's face hanging on it in the middle of campus.
In front of Ayoub are stacked copies of the Constitution. In another corner of the table is a pile of buttons reading “big government sucks.” (The building behind him sports murals of black nationalist Malcolm X and United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez.)
Ayoub was born in Egypt. His mother recently had trouble crossing the border from Canada into the U.S. when immigration officials questioned her on whether she had ties to Syria. Yet Ayoub approves of Trump's promise to make Mexico pay for a wall between us and them.
“I love his stance on immigration,” says Ayoub. “If you don't have a border, you really don't have a country. And I say that as an immigrant.”
Ayoub offers the sad tale of Kathryn Steinle, the woman shot to death last summer allegedly by an undocumented immigrant who immediately became a Trump talking point, as proof our borders need securing. (He is unaware all the felonies alleged shooter Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez committed were nonviolent.)
The two other Trump supporters with Ayoub, 21-year-old Brian May and 19-year-old John Byerly, are less pointed with their political support of Trump, but say they have constructive debates with students who love Bernie Sanders every time they're out tabling.
Byerly says he's been watching Trump on television for close to a decade and finds him funny and charismatic. In particular he likes when Trump “burns the other candidates.”
“I used to watch The Apprentice for years,” Byerly says. “The way he came out of nowhere, it was like believing in a underdog.”