the safety net threatens their Medicare
and believes cutting foreign trade and
immigration might increase their job
What does Trump need to do to win?
I don’t think Donald Trump can change
anything. He very much seems locked
in. I know from my research that his key
strategist stopped writing memos for
him years ago because he doesn’t read
anything. He watches a little TV and then,
as he says, literally talks with himself.
He can change his tone but is unlikely to
develop more detailed policies.
And it’s interesting: if you look at all his
talk about “they’re making fools of us”…
He ran the same exact ads in 1987 against
Ronald Reagan. This has been a constant
line of his for 30 years now. He doesn’t
change. He changed talking about Japan to
talking about China, but it’s the same lines.
Let’s switch to the other candidate: What
does Clinton need to do to win?
Secretary Clinton, to win, has to give
people enough exposure to her talking
about the many things you do as president,
to get them comfortable with her. I mean,
this is an extraordinary, unusual race: 48
percent of people in the country say they
would never consider voting for Hillary
Clinton. 57 percent of people in America
say they would never consider voting for
Donald Trump. So she has a ceiling of 52
percent; he has a ceiling of about 43.
The extraordinary thing this year is not
just that somebody like Donald Trump got
a lot of support, but that the person who
came in second was the most despised,
disliked senator in, probably, a century
in the American Senate: Senator Cruz.
It’s stunning when you look at what
Republican leaders said about him. These
are comments you usually hear on late-night comedy shows about a party, or from
the other party at a fundraiser, not from
I think we’ve been hearing a lot of things in
this election we haven’t heard before. Is the
level of vitriol and anger, or populism—or
some combination of any of those—new?
The vitriol and the anger come and go.
What’s new is the lack of anything but
bile from one of the winning candidates.
Donald Trump has never discussed details
of any policies; it’s always been “I’m
great and I can do it.” I’ve never been in a
campaign where there wasn’t a little bit
more content, not necessarily long policy
proposals, but at least some familiarity
with the details.
People wrongly thought Ronald Reagan
wasn’t very smart or didn’t know a lot.
I knew better. He was a very effective
governor. When he was governor, he
sat down with former Secretary of the
Treasury George Shultz for lunch in
Sacramento. He grilled Shultz for hours
about the federal budget, and Shultz was
impressed by his detailed questions.
In one of the debates, Donald Trump did
not know what the nuclear triad was,
and I don't think he understands what
NATO was doing in the Middle East.
Now, it clearly doesn’t matter to a lot of
people, but I’m still surprised, whether
he wins or loses, that he got so far without
expanding his plans.
Do you think being light on content is
predictive of the future? Is this what we
have to look forward to in the campaigns
of 2020 and beyond?
I very much doubt that. Donald Trump got
this far because he broke the logjams
inside the Republican Party. His insults,
racially charged exaggerations and
factually challenged statements were
all criticized. But no one called him on
a major part of his appeal to voters who
feel threatened—strengthening Medicare
and Social Security. Now that the logjam
has been broken, Republican leaders are
realizing that they have ignored many of
the problems of their less affluent voters.
They either address them by accepting the
role of the government in strengthening
the safety net, or the Democrats could win
many of them back.