The host of “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel seems to want to like the Republican presidential front-runner; he really does. They’ve hung out, done the wave together at Yankee Stadium. (Trump was more into it than O’Reilly.)
“Look, you know I’m looking out for you, right?” O’Reilly told Trump during an interview last month. “You know that. I’m looking out for you.”
Yet that moment of reassurance came amid an otherwise-tense exchange in which O’Reilly called out Trump for retweeting bogus homicide statistics that greatly exaggerated the rate at which black people kill white people.
“This bothered me; I gotta tell you,” O’Reilly said. He later issued a plea for Trump to straighten out: “Don't do this. Don't put your name on stuff like this, ’cause it makes the other side -- it gives them stuff to tell the ill-informed voter that you’re a racist. You just handed them a platter.”
Just last week, O’Reilly appeared flummoxed by Trump again after the Republican presidential front-runner called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
“You can’t insult them like that! You can’t!” O'Reilly exclaimed while interviewing Trump on Wednesday. “You can vet them, but you can’t insult a whole religion.”
Broadly, O’Reilly likely typifies many Republican voters who like much of what they hear from Trump but aren’t sure whether they can overlook his most extreme remarks and proposals. Let's not forget here that, while Trump leads the Republican primary, his base of support remains limited, and many of his own party's voters don't like him. That begins to be a problem once the field of candidates narrows and 30 percent of the vote is no longer sufficient to win.
Should Trump go on to win the GOP nomination (or run as a third-party candidate) he’ll need to convince people like O’Reilly to turn out — people who want to like him but who feel, for now, that it’s complicated.