Republican Donald Trump (L) and Democrat Hillary Clinton (R) shake hands at the end of the second Presidential Debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, 09 October 2016.
Photograph: EPA/GARY HE

The Women for Trump in Trumbull County, Ohio, were not in the mood to hear more about Donald Trump's sex talk in a recording leaked to the media last week.

By the time Mary Theis and two other members of Women for Trump settled down Sunday night to watch the debate at her home in the north-eastern corner of the swing state, they were more than ready to move beyond the recording that has roiled Trump's campaign.

"Oh no, here we go," said Judy Shortreed, 70, when the subject of the recording came up.

Theis, 81, said when she heard about the tape her thought was: "Words are words, actions are actions. His (Bill Clinton's) actions were worse."

"It's guys talking," said Shortreed. "We women do the same thing when we are in a closed room."

Theis, Shortreed and Barbara Petiya, 71, are die-hard Trump supporters. Theis and Shortreed have been since the early days of the campaign, and Petiya, who initially considered Trump rude and arrogant, was slower to join his cause but now sees him as the best choice.

Dressed in red, long-sleeved Women for Trump T-shirts and adorned with Republican-themed watches, rings and bracelets, they cheered their candidate when he jabbed at Clinton's email scandal, her foreign policy and especially when he said if elected president he would take steps to have her prosecuted and put in jail.

The three women made clear they wanted to hear substantive talk about the candidates' positions on issues like jobs, health care, foreign policy and the Supreme Court.

They had heard enough about the "politically motivated" release of the tape at roughly the same time the website Wikileaks published details about secret Clinton speeches to bankers. That only showed that it was an attempt to draw attention away from Clinton's misdeeds, they said.

"I just want to choke her," Shortreed fumed at Clinton. "What have you done for the last 30 years?"

Nothing for Trumbull County, all three said. They are upset over societal changes that have brought drugs into their community and given minorities a greater voice than the majority, they say.

They lament that teachers and police officers receive less respect than they once did and that the government provides free handouts to poor people for things like nappies. When they grew up, their families were not wealthy, but they were self-sufficient and it was a better way to be, they said.

Above all it is too few good-paying jobs that underlies much of the problems in their county, which has a population of about 200,000 people in an area known for its ageing or shuttered factories. It has seen the exodus of good manufacturing jobs in steel mills and auto plants to places like Mexico, Taiwan and India.

An auto supply factory that two of the three women once worked for had some 15,000 jobs 40 years ago. Now it employs 300.

"I want to see jobs coming back," said Theis, who made her living in real estate. "And I want to see our country being loved like it was in the '50s."

Petiya, whose current job involves applying for grant money to fund a food programme that delivers meals to people in need, questions government data on unemployment, which puts it at 5 per cent across the country.

"How come they keep telling us we are doing better in this country when there is such a need for services," she said. "The Democrats' solution to me is pour more money on it. We need jobs to solve it."

They agreed that the debate would have been dull if the moderators had spent more time on what Trump called his "locker room banter." When it was over they all thought Trump shone and Clinton fell flat.

"She looked awfully smug," said Shortreed. "He was on target and on message."

Theis said the evening only reconfirmed what she felt from the beginning of Trump's campaign.

"I personally believe he is doing this for the country. That's why I am supporting him," she said. "He's a businessman. He doesn't need to do this, but he knows America needs a change and that's what he is going to do."

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