HANOVER TOWNSHIP -- Even at 45 mph, the flecks of royal blue are hard to miss for the roughly 12,000 drivers who pass through Millville Oxford Road every day.
Miss one and a few houses down, you’ll see another.
Tucked between the farm fields and modest ranch homes, more than 60 Donald Trump yard signs dot the four-mile stretch of road in a rural corner of Butler County.
Homeowners here know their front yards serve as important political real estate, so every four years dozens of them plant GOP campaign signs in their lush lawns.
Parents use the road as a main thoroughfare to Miami University, where they visit their kids or pick up them up for weekend breaks. Truck drivers frequent their street, which is part of U.S. Route 27.
“We’re all Republicans here and we’ve got a good spot,” 59-year-old Cynthia Staton said as she looked out at the steady hum of 5 p.m. traffic from her Millville Oxford Road driveway.
Butler County is one of the conservative hotbeds where Trump needs voters to turn out in historic numbers to win Ohio and, in turn, the presidency next week. Trump’s Ohio campaign is counting on a third of the county’s residents showing up to support Trump by Election Day.
Art Sauerwein, a 52-year-old who owns a small lawn mowing shop on Millville Oxford Road, believes Trump might win in a landslide next Tuesday, given the support he hears from his neighbors and friends for Trump.
Judge the signs on the road and Sauerwein is nearly right; only two homes boast Hillary Clinton signs in their front lawns.
“They talk about these polls and how it’s such a close election,” Sauerwein said. “I can’t find anybody that’s not supporting Trump.”
So who are these avid Trump supporters? What about the Republican presidential candidate makes them plant an 8-foot sign outside their homes? Take a trip with us down Trump (aka Millville Oxford) Road.
'I have to make a choice'
Jeff Spradlin likes what he hears when Trump talks.
Sure, the 62-year-old realizes Trump doesn’t always say the smartest things.
“He puts his mouth in gear before he thinks,” Spradlin joked as he stood on the porch of his Millville Oxford Road home.
But Trump’s straight talk makes Spradlin believe what he says.
Clinton, Spradlin said, is a “darn, pathological liar.”
But in Trump, he sees someone who’s just speaking his mind.
“With her being a politician, she’s going to bend the truth a heck of a lot more; she knows how to do it,” Spradlin said. “If I’m a real S.O.B., I’d rather someone call me a real S.O.B. instead of skirting the darn issue. That’s the way I feel he does things.”
Spradlin's wife, Stacie, hasn’t liked much of the talk in this election, though. Both candidates have attacked one another too much, she said. It’s turned her off.
“I’m kind of on the fence,” Stacie Spradlin, 50, said.
But, “she won’t vote for Hillary,” her husband quickly interrupted.
She’s thought about not voting at all. A third-party candidate feels like a wasted vote to her. Two weeks before the election, she’s leaning toward Trump.
“I am a human being and I have to make a choice,” Stacie Spradlin said. “If I don’t, I can’t complain over who gets in office.”
Who are the working people presidential candidates talk about?
Nancy Tipton is fed up with hearing presidential hopefuls vow to help the middle class every four years.
The 67-year-old has watched her two sons follow in their father’s footsteps – learning how to lay shingles and launching a small, family roofing business of their own – but struggle to make the money he did in the profession.
She’s heard horror stories from her family members, who tell her they’ve put off medical treatments because they can’t afford the cost under President Barack Obama’s health care law.
So when politicians promise to fight for working people, she wonders: Who, exactly, are they talking about?
“It must be people who’s making a lot of money,” Tipton concluded on the steps of the Millville Oxford Road house she’s lived in for 40 years. “It makes you mad. The government has gotten to where they don’t pay attention to the people that are working. They say they’re for the middle class but, no, I don’t think they are.”
Trump’s talk of tougher immigration rules signals to Tipton that the GOP nominee must understand the troubles middle class families like her own face.
She believes roofing companies are able to slash prices for customers by paying immigrants living here illegally lower wages. Her sons, she said, have suffered as a result.
It’s not that she minds immigrants living here, necessarily – “I don’t blame them,” she quickly added – but she wishes the government would force roofing companies to pay them competitive wages.
“They put roofing as one of the jobs that Americans don’t want, that the only people who wants them is the Mexicans,” Tipton said. “That’s not true.”
'He better clean his mouth up'
Earlier this month, Cynthia Staton thought about pulling out the big Trump yard sign she got from Art Sauerwein.
She even wrote her Republican congressman to see what she should do.
Despite how disgusted she with the 2005 video that surfaced of Trump talking about groping women, she ended up keeping the Trump poster, right next to the ‘Hillary for Prison’ sign in the yard.
“I held back and said, 'Let’s just wait and see,'” Staton said. “He better clean his mouth up before I get to the polls.”
It’s her husband who is really the big Trump fan in the house. Sometimes they squabble over the GOP nominee.
She likes Trump and believes he “knows what the people want” but her husband wishes she were more on board with the candidate.
Staton, after all, is still considering some other options come Election Day.
One thing is certain: She won’t vote for Clinton.
“She’s a liar,” Staton said. “They think we’re nuts for sticking with Trump – what about her?”
But she might not end up voting for either of the two major party’s offerings.
“I’m thinking about putting his running mate Mike Pence down,” she said.
The man behind the Trump signs
Art Sauerwein is the man behind the Trump signs – the biggest ones, anyhow.
In September, he purchased 55 of the signs that measure 8 feet wide and 4 feet tall. At first he was just going to stake many of them outside of his lawn mowing business.
Then, his neighbors on Millville Oxford Road started calling.
Nancy Tipton, who lives about two miles down, got one of Sauerwein’s signs from her brother. Tipton’s across-the-street neighbor called her to ask where he could find one, too, and soon enough a sign was in his front yard.
“My phone’s been ringing off the hook from everywhere,” Sauerwein said of demands for the signs.
Although he paid $35 for each sign, he gives them away for free. People from West Chester, Cincinnati and Middletown have called to get their hands on one. Once he ran out of the first batch, another local business stepped in to help him with the purchase of 75 more.
Sauerwein usually supports Republican candidates, but he’s never been this passionate about a presidential candidate.
“I’m a Republican but I’m not for a lot of the Republicans who have been in office for a while,” Sauerwein said. “I like Trump because he’s a business owner, like myself.”
Republicans have let Sauerwein down in the past, he said.
He’s still mad at Butler County’s John Boehner for allowing the Affordable Care Act -- which he said will cost him $1,000 monthly to cover himself and four daughters next year -- to make it into law while Boehner was speaker of the House.
He was furious when gas prices skyrocketed – driving up costs at his lawn mowing business – while George W. Bush was in office. In fact, that’s why Trump first caught his attention roughly a decade ago.
“I heard him do an interview on a late night show,” Sauerwein said of Trump. “That’s when Bush was in office and our fuel prices were over $4 a gallon. I was upset about that. Trump was talking about a lot of things back then. I thought, if that guy ever runs for president that I’d vote for him.’”
Next week, Sauerwein will finally do just that.