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caption: President Donald Trump with Tony Barger.
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President Donald Trump with Tony Barger.
Credit: Courtesy of Tony Barger.

Washington views on the 2020 election: Why Trump has 'crossover appeal'

As the 2020 election approaches, KUOW is asking Washington state voters from across the political spectrum what they think about the candidates and the issues that are important to them.

These profiles are not meant to be a representation of accurate, factual reporting. Rather, KUOW is presenting these voices as the opinions and the perspectives which inform people's votes in 2020.

caption: KUOW is speaking with voters across Washington state, from very different perspectives, about the 2020 election.
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KUOW is speaking with voters across Washington state, from very different perspectives, about the 2020 election.
Credit: Dyer Oxley / KUOW

Tony Barger runs the Washington State for Donald Trump Facebook page and now serves as a political advisor to various local campaigns. He was hired to work for Donald Trump's 2016 campaign in Washington state, but has since moved to Texas. He remains involved in Washington state politics, releasing video commentaries on local issues, candidates, and Trump.

Issues/perspective: Barger says that despite how many voters feel about Trump's character, they are starting to see how beneficial he has been for the country and bank accounts. He wants Trump to end H1B, H2B, and J1B visa programs permanently, which he says is a corporate strategy to keep wages low and knock Americans out of the workforce.

Barger says he knew Donald Trump would run for president decades before the 2016 election.

“Back in 1988, it was my senior year of high school, I saw Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention and he was walking around. Chris Wallace and Peter Jennings were there and interviewed him. They asked, ‘Would you ever consider running for office?’"

“He always said the same thing, ‘Well, ya know, I really love what I do … ya know, real estate and all this stuff. But if they can’t find the right person for the job, maybe I’d consider it. But at this time no.’ Then he walked away and I knew at that time he was going to run for president and win -- it was a matter of when. And I’ve followed him ever since."

Barger grew up in Snohomish County and currently works in IT. When Trump first announced his run for president, Barger immediately started up the Washington State for Donald Trump Facebook page, which now has nearly 178,000 followers.

Washington state's Trump supporters have rallied around Barger's Facebook page, where he publishes frequent videos and commentaries on local politics and the president. However, when he casts his vote for Trump in November, it will be in Texas where he has moved since the last election.

'Crossover appeal'

Barger predicts that Trump will win in a landslide this year. The reason is because the president has what Barger calls "crossover appeal."

“Think about it, you got the African Americans at the lowest unemployment, lowest it’s ever been. You got Hispanic American people (unemployment) at the lowest it’s ever been. You got the Asian Americans and stuff,” he said, further noting that Trump called the father of the young man who was shot and killed in the CHOP in Seattle’s Capitol Hill – actions that will further help him win, he says.

“That’s who he is. He cares about the American people regardless of color.”

When Barger travels for his IT work, he likes to ask Trump doubters, “Hey, why don’t you like Trump?”

Common replies are about the president's demeanor; how he tends to insult people and is abrasive. Or they mention his tweeting habits.

"They don’t like that part, but they like his policies," Barger said. "And you know what, far too often I’m hearing more people say, ‘I like my IRA account, I like my retirement account … I don’t like his tweeting, but Trump is helping me make money, so he’s doing something right' ... and I’m coming across more and more Democrats who are finally waking up and seeing that -- ‘Oh, he’s not such an evil guy.’”

“They say he’s a racist," he said of another common Trump criticism. "Well, I tell them, ‘Why would President Trump hire me personally on his campaign if he is such a racist?’

“All they are doing is repeating the mainstream media … so like what he said about Mexicans … he was talking about some Mexicans ... he was talking about the criminal element ... I try to explain that to people and they get it.”

Main issue: Visa programs

If there is one main issue that Barger wants Trump to act on, it's visas for foreign workers. He wants the president to permanently end the H-1B, H-2B, and J-1 visa programs.

All programs allow employers to hire foreign workers for temporary periods, but each is for a different purpose. The J-1 visa, for example, is aimed at cultural exchange and for job training of foreign personnel through US employment. The H-2B visa allows non-agricultural workers to be employed seasonally or during a peak business period. And the H-1B visa is used by employers who need to look outside the US for skills and specialties not found in the country.

"They take American jobs from American people," Barger said. "I know, I’m an IT worker."

According to Barger, companies like to bring in foreign employees into fields like IT through these visa programs. He argues that this is done to keep wages low, and that companies favor this practice so they also don't have to pay for benefits.

“It’s happened to me many times," he said.

"And younger generations, younger than me, are more than capable to do those jobs, but they’ve been displaced ... I travel all across the country and I see it, not just in tech, but medical and everywhere."

The H-1B visa issue is common among many Trump supporters -- and also debated by people in the IT industry. There are online petitions over the issue.

It's a complex topic, but essentially, people like Barger claim that outsourcing firms are bringing in foreign labor to replace American workers at reduced pay, especially in the IT and tech fields. This is allowed under the law due to a loophole in the H-1B visa program. That loophole allows companies to pay workers less than the prevailing wage if they are generally paying more than $60,000 per employee or are hiring new workers with a masters degree.

Others have argued that the H-1B program, as it exists, actually grows jobs and wages in these fields, further making it a hot topic of debate.

In Barger's experience, he says that he has seen companies bring in new foreign employees for existing workers to train for a few months. After that, the existing employees are let go.

"There are plenty of hard-working men and women in this country who can do (these jobs). Companies don’t want to pay them benefits or a livable wage. That’s why they are bringing these foreign companies in this country to suppress the wages, hold the wages down ... That’s what pisses me off. I’m glad President Trump is suspending (visa programs), but I want him to kill it for good.”

The issue is complex. But Barger has hope that the president's "crossover appeal" will help voters see progress on this issue, and others, as he sees them. He is confident that Trump will come out on top.

“Mark my words. After his next term is up, I guarantee you, he will have his face on Mount Rushmore. And Donald J. Trump Jr. will be running in 2024. I guarantee you that.”