During our hour-long meeting in his 26th-floor retro-chic Trump Tower office last Tuesday, Donald Trump reiterated a claim he has made in every conversation we’ve had: “[I]f the Republicans pick the wrong person, I would consider doing something.” That something is making an independent bid for the presidency. But he added something new. “If the right Republican doesn’t, if the right person doesn’t run against him,” Trump said, “He’ll win.” Of course, the “he” is President Obama. And Trump thinks the embattled president is doing a lot better than Republicans think.
“You know I like him as a person,” Trump volunteered when I asked him what he thought of my argument that we are seeing “Obama 2.0,” a more combative president willing to fight for his agenda and his presidency. He then launched into a lengthy and quintessentially Trump recitation of what happened from his perspective at the White House Correspondents Dinner. (“I’m having a good time, but I felt I should keep a stone face.”) Once that was done, I got him back on track by asking of Obama, “Has he found his footing?
“If the right Republican doesn’t, if the right person doesn’t run against him, he’ll win,” Trump said. “He’s an excellent politician. He’s somebody that has a lot of gravitas.”
The real-estate mogul stated the obvious when he said, “I think that he’s being seriously hampered by a seriously bad economy and if it continues it’ll be hard for him to win.”
Still, Trump gives Obama props, saying, “He’s handling himself about as well you can considering the economy is horrible.”
He is mindful of the historical chatter that no president has won reelection with an economy this “horrible” and high unemployment. “Nobody’s ever won the presidency, and it would be very tough to do,” he said. But Trump thinks Obama could pull it off.
I actually think this could be a different situation. If the Republicans pick the wrong candidate, they’re going to lose. The other thing is the Republicans, I don’t think they realize how popular Obama is. He’s got a great popularity. He’s got an amazing popularity. And it’s more amazing by the fact that the economy is doing poorly and he’s made some bad decisions.
At another point during the conversation, Trump said Obama’s high personal favorable ratings are “a tremendous asset for him” because, “if people are undecided but they like him, people are going to vote for the guy that they like.” He added, “Now, liking is different than, you know, the other thing. But I think Obama is going to be tough to beat. I think he’s going to run a great campaign.”
Trump is known for hyperbole and liking everyone he meets. But if Obama 2.0 keeps going and the Republicans keep casting about for the perfect candidate, Trump’s analysis might prove correct. Obama is going to be tough to beat.