Some of President Obama's campaign donors are making a surprising choice this year: giving money to elect Donald Trump.
Antonia Okafor is one of the few who have travelled from Obama to Trump, according to Federal Election Commission records. She felt she had no choice but to vote for Trump in order prevent a Clinton win. “I voted for Obama twice,” Okafor said. “I thought Obama would make it easier for me as a black person in America.”
Norma Huffman, a Marble Falls, Texas grandmother of two, is another Obama donor writing checks to Trump's campaign. “My husband and I both started off as Democrats,” she said. Huffman said she had high hopes for the Democratic party when she voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 presidential primaries.
But this year the Huffmans want to dodge another Clinton presidency.
“I know people think all the Trump supporters are ignorant bigots. I don’t consider myself any of those things," Huffman said. "I’m just so turned off with Hillary Clinton.”
Huffman's disenchantment with the party of Jackson and Jefferson has grown over the past several years, she told American Media Institute. She is flipping to Trump at the same time rogue Democratic coalitions such as the ‘Trumpocrats’ and ‘Democrats for Trump’ have cropped up around the country.
There are not many Trump/Obama campaign donors, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records. More than 70 Trump 2016 donors donated to Obama in 2012 and more than 180 Trump donors gave to Obama in 2008. That's out of more than 350,000 contributors to Obama’s 2008 campaign, and more than 300,000 contributors to his 2012 campaign. An estimated 270,270 Americans donated to the Trump 2016 campaign as of September. Only 27 Americans had donated to all three campaigns consecutively. But the fact that there are any overlaps between Obama and Trump donors is newsworthy given the perceived ideological divide between the two presidential candidates.
The Obama/Trump overlap is mirrored by the 192 Americans who supported Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 and are for Hillary Clinton this year. "Donald Trump continues to demonstrate that he'll never be president of this country," said business mogul and Romney donor David Nierenberg. "Maybe president of North Korea. Maybe president of Albania. Maybe president of some fascist dictatorship country... If my children behave the way he does, I would be a failure as a father. He is a shameful person."
Nierenberg "probably won't" donate to the Clinton campaign because "she doesn't need money," he said. "But she did get my endorsement a couple months ago, and I did go on television a few times and speak on her behalf."
Obama/Trump donors have also followed a surprising path from supporting the president to supporting one of his most prominent critics. Trump spent most of the Obama administration casting doubts on the president's claim to have been born in the United States and the authenticity of his birth certificate, although he recently moved away from his earlier positions.
Obama/Trump donors expressed a host of reasons for their political journey during interviews with American Media Institute, ranging from disappointment with president Obama to disagreement over Iran, immigration, and other issues.
“He is not firm enough on immigration,” Arizona registered nurse Michelle Holley said of Obama. Trump's immigration plan would “definitely” be more effective, Holley said.
Victor Williams made headlines in June when he expressed support for Trump in an online article. Williams, a clinical assistant professor at Catholic University's Columbus School of Law, supported Obama in 2012 but was “profoundly disappointed, especially in the last eighteen months.”
The economy was Williams highest-priority important issue in all three elections, he said, but Obama’s handling of the Iran deal was what made Williams lose his support. “The Iran deal was just too much for me," he said, criticizing what he called Democrats' unwillingness to address relevant national security issues.
Williams’ public support for Trump made waves for him where he teaches, he told American Media Institute.
“They didn’t seem to mind so much when I supported Obama but they’ve been disgruntled lately with my support for Donald Trump,” Williams said. “It’s part of the reason why Donald Trump is winning.” Williams cited no polls pointing to a Trump victory.
“I haven’t heard anything along those lines,” Joe Ferraro, director of marketing and communications at the law school, said of Williams’ claim. “I honestly do not know, unless it was a conversation with whomever he reports to.”
Other Obama/Trump donors expressed disappointment in the performance of the U.S. economy during the Obama administration.
“I had high hopes for Obama in 2008 and 2012," said Thuruthel Kurian, a small business owner living in New York, "but it’s unfortunately not getting better; it’s getting worse.”
Kurian pointed to regulations imposed on businesses that, he said, are hurting him financially. “I have been weighed down with regulations, and I’m really struggling to make ends meet,” Kurian said. “I’m very close to the breaking point.”
Kurian donated to Obama in both 2008 and 2012, and he donated to Trump this year.
“The economy is why I’m going to support Donald Trump,” New York special officer Ernestine Blake told American Media Institute. “I believe that he is really going to stimulate the economy because he’s a businessman, and over the years he built buildings that could help support people.”
Unlike Kurian and Williams, Blake praised Obama’s leadership and handling of the economy.
“I think when he went to office he meant well,” Blake said. “The things that he promised to do—I think he did most of them. Then they said the economy was in a deficit and there were no jobs, but during this presidency I think the economy has prospered.”
Many Obama/Trumpers distrust Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The country needs a president who is “not a career politician but a successful civilian,” Colorado kidney care physician Paul Sakiewicz said. “I think Hillary is a very polarizing figure and her administration will continue to be in the path of business.”
“I think Obama is a decent guy. I think he’s trying his hardest and I think he was a decent president. I just think there are a couple of things he does half-assed,” Sakiewicz said. “Over all, I think he had good intentions and that’s what I liked about him.”
"Supporting Trump is most important as a vote against Hillary,” said Bruce White, a retired state worker living in Maryland, who said he would consider voting for a minor-party candidate under other circumstances.
“I worked in the government with these people, and I watched every minute of the FBI briefing,” White said, referring to the investigation of Clinton's handling of her government email. “She can’t even lie that well.”
Although several Obama/Trump donors still support Obama, they were unmoved by his endorsement of Clinton.
“I think he’s doing it because he thinks if she gets elected then people will say, ‘See? He’s doing such a great job that people elected a Democrat right after him,’" Huffman said.
Huffman said she and her husband never thought they would end up supporting Trump, but they have reached a point where they might even buy ‘Deplorable’ t-shirts to spite the Clinton campaign.
“We’re thinking about it,” she said with a laugh. “I think Trump is enthusiastic and you can feel enthusiastic about that. There was enthusiasm in Bernie Sanders. He was deluded about stuff but I’d rather see him running than Hillary. With Trump there is hope.”