For Trump supporters, elections a battle to protect a leader under siege

For many Americans, Tuesday's congressional midterm elections are a referendum on Republican President Donald Trump’s divisive persona, hard-line policies and pugnacious politics.
But on the eve of the election, in a packed airport hangar in Cleveland and at other Trump rallies across the nation, the stakes are different: a vote to protect a leader they see as under siege, whose inflammatory rhetoric is a necessary price for a norm-shattering era of change.
"You think we're letting that caravan come into this country?" Trump asked the crowd on Monday, referring to a group of Central American migrants moving through Mexico toward the US border.
"No!" his supporters shouted.
At rallies overflowing with red-hatted, mostly white supporters in conservative pockets of the country, those backing Trump say they hope to make his ideas the dominant force in American political life for decades to come.
They face strong headwinds. Nationally, about 52 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump's performance. More people say they would vote for a Democratic candidate than a Republican in Tuesday's congressional elections, Reuters/Ipsos polling shows.
But pro-Trump Republicans are eager to defy expectations, just as the president did with his 2016 victory.
In Grand Rapids, Michigan, pro-Trump activist Ben Hirschmann, 23, sees Tuesday's elections as decisive for Trump’s vision of America.
“Trump’s not on the ballot, but he is on the ballot," he said at a phone-bank event to get out the vote at the local Republican headquarters. "Everything we voted for in 2016 is on the line in 2018.”