FIX: Explain Donald Trump’s appeal. And is he uniquely suited to this election cycle or could he have done well if he had run four years ago? Or eight years ago?
Newt: It took the combination of deep conservative and working class anger at President Obama, the collapse of government (Katrina, the veterans administration,the border, inner city schools, etc) the worst economy for male high school educated workers since the Great Depression , the continuous and growing threat of terrorism and a sense that the Republican leadership couldn't solve things reinforced by the rise of 24/7 news and social media for Trump to dominate. He couldn't have [done that] four or eight years ago.
FIX: You’re a student of history. Is there a historical analog to Trump — whether in terms of his personality or his rhetoric?
Newt: Andrew Jackson.
Andrew Jackson represented a farmer-frontier-worker rebellion against the eastern establishment who had maintained control for over a generation. The elites disliked him so much he got bad press for a century until [Arthur M.] Schlesinger's "The Age of Jackson" rehabilitated him. You could make a similar argument for [Ted] Cruz, [Ben] Carson, and [Carly] Fiorina as genuine outsiders.
FIX: How dangerous do you think Trump is for Republicans running for Senate or House in 2016? Could he cost the GOP majorities in both chambers?
Newt: If Trump keeps learning he could become a big asset. He will shatter the traditional patterns.
FIX: Has the 2016 presidential election been a good, bad or indifferent thing for the Republican party? Explain.
Newt: It has been good for America. This is as smart a team of candidates as we have fielded in my lifetime. They are raising important issues. The uncertainty is attracting the attention of millions of Americans. We will be a stronger party for having a woman CEO, an African American brain surgeon [and] two Latinos campaigning with two 44 year old presidential candidates (and in Paul Ryan, the youngest Speaker since 1869). The Republicans are becoming the party of youth, diversity and creativity.
FIX: Who is the strongest general election candidate for your party against Hillary Clinton? Why?
Newt: The one we nominate. By definition the person who learns enough to become the nominee is almost certainly the best person for the general election.