CHARLOTTE, United States: Problems? What problems?
Donald Trump's supporters shrug off reports about the Republican nominee's sinking campaign, saying the media, pollsters and the establishment are working overtime against the political maverick.
To them, the issues are just the latest example of "all against one."
Trump hasn't led any poll since late July, according to the Real Clear Politics site that tracks political polling. Democrat Hillary Clinton has an average lead of six points -- a huge margin with less than three months to go until the election.
But those numbers don't concern his fans.
"I really don't believe it, because everyone I have ever spoken to says they're voting for Trump," said Peggy Overman, 58, who spoke with AFP at a conference center in Charlotte, North Carolina where Trump on Thursday made his first public appearance since shaking up his campaign team.
The restaurant owner said many voters hesitate to tell pollsters they support Trump because "you might get fun of, you might get called uneducated, racist."
A dozen Trump supporters told AFP they expected their silent counterparts to turn out at the polls on November 8 and carry the real estate developer into the White House.
Although polls correctly placed Trump at the head of a pack of Republican candidates during the primary season, his supporters now believe those surveys are being manipulated to boost Clinton's chances.
"The only thing I can come up with is they have to be not telling the truth on that," said Cheryl Hughes, a 55-year-old self-employed news junkie.
Look at the size of the crowds, she said, to illustrate her point.
"You go to Hillary Clinton's rallies and there are like 60 people, and then you come here and there are thousands of people -- it just doesn't make sense."
- Media bias -
The Republican establishment and party leaders who were reluctant to support Trump are also at fault, said Michael Scholz, 36, a supply chain sales manager.
But it's the mainstream media that garner the most contempt from Trump's fans.
They concede that Trump commits slip-ups, but feel the media artificially inflate the incidents into controversies.
News reports are "just taking clips, chopping it up" to keep only the most controversial elements, Hughes said.
She gets her news from Fox News but also conservative websites and Facebook pages where Clinton's name is usually preceded by "lying" or "crooked."
"Even though sometimes he's not politically correct, he's got the right ideas," said 62-year-old Dan Wallace, who arrived at 11:30am for a 7:30pm rally.
As for Trump's policies, "This is new to him. But he's intelligent enough to know who he needs to have in certain positions," the retired Fedex courier said.
Many admire the 70-year-old billionaire for his political incorrectness, but some said they'd like to see him tone down his shoot-from-the-hip comments.
"I just wish he would just sometimes stay away from all the gibberish on the side and really go after his policies, his policies are actually very good," said Mark Gonzales, 40, who owns a landscaping company.
"I think he gets a little sidetracked" with attacking Clinton, he added.
The idea of an unfair fight against the system was at the heart of Trump's message to the faithful on Thursday night.
"The establishment media... will take words of mine out of context and spend a week obsessing over every single syllable, and then pretend to discover some hidden meaning in what I said," Trump said.
"Every story is told from the perspective of the insiders," he added. "It's the narrative of the people who rigged the system, never the voice of the people it's been rigged against."
Gonzales got his wish Thursday night, with Trump reading his speech from a teleprompter and sticking to the script, even saying he regretted making hurtful comments in the past.
It showed a more disciplined approach but time will tell whether it has any effect on the polls.