To hear Donald Trump's campaign manager tell it, Donald Trump is the American Pharoah of politics -- even though he hasn't actually won anything yet.
Republican operative Corey Lewandowski, who hails from New Hampshire, first met Trump back in 2014; when the real estate magnate decided to take the presidential plunge, Lewandowski -- who, as Politico notes, has a history of working with irritating-to-the-Republican-establishment candidates -- signed on to lead the campaign.
And Donald Trump certainly fits that bill. His increasingly bombastic bulldozer of a campaign leads the Republican field of 16, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll taken over the weekend. (Though it's still too soon to tell if Trump's recent comments that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is not a war hero and his doxxing of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on live TV will turn off Trump's small but fervent group of supporters.)
We chatted with Lewandowski over the phone about Trump's White House bid. Here's some of what he had to say.
The Fix: You've probably got the toughest job in politics. Your candidate is a lighting rod. What's that like?
LEWANDOWSKI: I see Congress as that [the toughest job in politics]. I think I have the greatest job in politics. I have the privilege of working for a candidate who is exceptionally well known, has had unparalleled success in everything that he has attempted to accomplish, from the business deals to the television field, to being a best-selling author. Someone who is not a career politician. So I am very, very fortunate to work for someone who the American public agrees has a message which is resonating.
The Fix: But more than 60 percent of Americans say they would never, ever vote for Mr. Trump .
LEWANDOWSKI: This [Washington Post/ABC News survey] is the same poll -- the very same poll -- that shows him the leader of the GOP field. If you look at that poll and the way that they spin that... I think [former Florida Gov.] Jeb Bush is at 12 percent of that poll, that's less than half of Mr. Trump. That tells me that 88 percent of the people don't want Jeb Bush to be their next president. [Ed.: By that line of thinking, wouldn't Trump's 24 percent mean that 76 percent of the people don't want him to be president, either?]
The Fix: Has Mr. Trump ever been wrong?
LEWANDOWSKI: [Laughs] That's a question for Mr. Trump. I don't know.
The Fix: It seems tough to keep Trump on message. During his campaign announcement, for example, he veered far off the campaign's prepared speech. What was going through your head?
LEWANDOWSKI: I'd like to say, and maybe this is a bad analogy, but I see Mr. Trump as American Pharoah, the horse that just ran and won the Triple Crown. When you have a horse like that, American Pharoah, you have to let him do his thing. Let him run his race. And anybody who thinks that they are going to be able to dictate what Mr. Trump should or shouldn't do doesn't understand the unparalleled success that he has had across his life. He doesn't rely on polling to make decisions. He doesn't rely on focus groups to test a message as many other candidates will do. He does what he believes to be fundamentally right for our country. It's a very refreshing change.
The Fix: Do you think that's working?
LEWANDOWSKI: If the poll numbers are any indication, I think it is.
The Fix: And yet do you think Mr. Trump's sensational comments take away from this ground-based campaign? Like in South Carolina, when the news about his speech was him giving away Graham's cell phone number instead of what else he said?
LEWANDOWSKI: There isn't. It's typical of the Washington, D.C. establishment and the politicians who have traditionally come to see Mr. Trump who have solicited him for money and then said, 'Here's my cell phone number, you can call me for anything.' Because that's how the system works right now. You give someone money, they give you access, and that's not how the system is supposed to be. So Lindsey Graham asked for money and then gave Mr. Trump his cell phone number. Lindsey Graham went on TV and said Donald Trump was a jackass. And Donald Trump said: okay, let's give Lindsey Graham's number out.
The Fix: So you don't think that was wrong?
LEWANDOWSKI: No. It was a response to Lindsey Graham's attacks and continued attacks on Mr. Trump.
The Fix: Do you think Mr. Trump is getting a pass for saying clearly racist statements like most undocumented Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists?
LEWANDOWSKI: He didn't say 'most.' He said Mexico is sending people across the border. What he said was they're criminals, they're drug dealers, some are rapists and some are good people. He has said many times he loves the Mexican people, but he hates the fact that the Mexican government is smarter than all of us -- that they out-negotiate us on the border and in trade deals.
I think Mr. Trump has clearly set the agenda this presidential election cycle with the need for immigration reform, with the need to prevent illegal aliens from coming cross the border and killing American citizens. Before Mr. Trump talked about these issues, they were not in the media.
The Fix: And yet Republicans like Graham are calling him "a jackass" and saying his "ugly comments" do not represent the Republican Party. How do you react to that?
LEWANDOWSKI: You know what I say is, I think if you look at what the voters care about, they care about changing our country, they care about having someone who tells them the truth and says it like it is. The days of a politician talking platitudes are over, and if it wasn't for Mr. Trump in this race, people would have allowed politicians to have a pass in talking platitudes about things that will never be accomplished.