What makes someone say they want Donald Trump to be the 45th president of the United States?
Bloomberg Politics' John Heilemann went to New Hampshire to try to answer that question -- sitting down with 12 people professing to support the Donald in 2016. The entirety of the focus group -- or at least the part Bloomberg has released today -- is worth watching. But one comment -- from a woman named Jane -- stood out to me. Here it is:
He's like one of us. He may be a millionaire ... but beside the money issue he's still in tune with what everyone is wanting.
Donald J. Trump has been called many things in his decades-long run as a public figure. I am betting that "one of us" is not one of them. This is, after all, someone who at every turn professes how wealthy he is ($10 billion!!), how smart he is ("really smart") and who lives a life -- married to a supermodel, star of his own reality TV show (until recently) -- that couldn't be further from the everyday life of the average person in the U.S.
And yet, despite all of the evidence of Trump's not-like-us-ness, he has quite clearly tapped into a populist message that plenty of people -- Jane from New Hampshire included -- are responding to. That such a populist strain exists in American political life is no surprise. That Donald Trump is, at least at the moment, the chosen vessel for that populist fervor is stunning.
How is this happening? My guess is that Trump's willingness to say whatever is on his mind appeals to people who feel like most politicians are totally detached from their lives. Trump's wealth gets dismissed because, well, aren't they all rich? (The answer to that question is: Yes, most people who run for president are significantly wealthier than the average person.)
As always with Trump, it's hard to tell how much of what he says he (a) believes and (b) is doing with any sort of strategic goal in mind. It's hard for me to imagine Trump sitting in his office -- a classy, luxurious one, of course -- thinking before he entered the 2016 campaign: "Yeah, I'll be the populist in the race."
But, Trump has been right a heck of a lot more than I have about his rise in this race. So maybe this is all part of his grand plan.
Probably not though.