Trump Heads Into Super Tuesday With Big Support, Unfavorable Ratings
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Tuesday is Super Tuesday, and right now, Donald Trump has the momentum among Republicans. He has voters excited. He is picking up endorsements, and even some GOP establishment types who had been cool to a Trump candidacy are coming around to his straight-talking ways.
Charlie Black has been called the Republican Party's quintessential company man. He's worked on many Republican presidential campaigns and is a lobbyist now. He joins me on the line from his office in Washington, D.C. Welcome to the program.
CHARLIE BLACK: Thank you, Rachel.
MARTIN: I understand you've known Donald Trump for more than 30 years, which is a pretty long time.
BLACK: Well, I have known him that long. I actually met him originally at a political event. But our public affairs firm did some work for him for many years.
MARTIN: At various points over the past year, you've been bearish on Trump's campaign. In July, you said he'd likely finish third, fourth or lower in the first few primaries. In November, you said he was losing steam. But here we are today, and he is the front runner by a lot in the Republican field.
BLACK: Well, he has surprised me. And frankly, I underestimated him, and I overestimated Jeb Bush and his chance, so you're right. Here we are. It's still early in the race, but he's won more than anyone else and has a good chance to go all the way to the nomination.
MARTIN: How do you feel about it?
BLACK: Well, I'm worried about whether he can win the general election. If you look at the polls for the general election, the Gallup Poll or Peter Hart's Wall Street Journal poll, Donald has very high unfavorable ratings. In the latest Hart poll, he was - 28 percent of the general electorate had a positive view of him, and 59 percent had an unfavorable view. So with those kind of numbers, it would be hard to win to defeat Hillary Clinton.
MARTIN: Why hasn't the party coalesced around a more conventional candidate?
BLACK: Well, we had too many of them, and several are still running and still believe that they have a path to the nomination. If it does coalesce down to one-on-one, I think Trump will lose.
MARTIN: Others have weighed in on the secret to Trump's success. You know, the American population is angry. They are sick of the establishment candidates. They like that Trump is a straight talker. What do you think is to account for his success?
BLACK: Well, his timing was very good because you - we are in an era when people in both parties are angry. You see it in the Bernie Sanders phenomenon in the Democratic Party that people think Washington is an effective and that neither party in Washington is doing anything to help them personally - their take-home pay. They're afraid more of terrorism than they have been in a while. And so they're sort of mad at everybody.
Well, along comes Donald who is a great salesman, an entertainer, a celebrity who plays a tough guy on television. So he was easily able to step into that role as the tough guy who can get things done better than any of these politicians.
MARTIN: In a piece in The New York Times from January, you were quoted as saying if he - Trump - got nominated, he'd be scared to death. What does that mean?
BLACK: Right now, he's pretty much his own strategist and his own press person. And you can't really do everything yourself in a general election.
MARTIN: If he gets the delegates and the nomination, will you go to the polls and cast your vote for Donald Trump?
BLACK: Sure, I will. I always support the Republican ticket.
MARTIN: Charlie Black, longtime political strategist and chairman of the Prime Policy Group. Mr. Black, thanks for your time.
BLACK: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.