Q&A: Trump Talks Tea Party, Polls, and His Presidential Prospects

Yesterday Azi and I wrote about the early days of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, but we weren’t able to include all of the good bits from a 20-minute phone interview.

What follows is an edited transcript:

NYO: It seems like there is right wing tea party resurgence over the last couple of years. Where do you think that comes from? How did you decide to become a part of it?

TRUMP: The Tea Party has been backing me. And as you see I am at the head of every poll. You saw The Public Policy one, I guess, that one.  The last poll, Public Policy had me at 26 percent and Huckabee at 17 Romany at 15. And then you had the last one, the Gallup poll which had myself and Huckabee leading. But the Tea Party polls I am leading everybody.

NYO: Why do you think the country has been reception to the Tea Party message and how did you come to see yourself as leading that message?

TRUMP: The Tea Party are people that are very proud to be Americans. I think they are very proud of this country and they hate seeing what is happening to this country. And I think they view me as a person who not let Saudi Arabia and the OPEC nations rip us off…will not let China rip us off, which is what they are doing, China is just ripping us. I think the Tea Party views me as somebody that will stop that from happening. And I think that’s why they like me. We had a rally, you probably heard, in Florida, I spoke before the Tea Party last week in Ft. Lauderdale and 250 people were expected and when they announced I was speaking 6,000 people showed up. And they had to move it to a big public park in Boca Raton. And tomorrow I am making a speech, to really to republicans not just tea party in New Hampshire, you probably heard about that. And in New Hampshire they had 500 tickets sold out in the first hour. That’s never happened before. And thousands of people are wanting to get in so there is going to be a big deal going on. People are scalping tickets. That’s never happened before. So there is something going on, as you’ve probably noticed.

NYO: It seems like the Tea Party really dislikes the President. Are you the guy that has given voice to that dislike?

TRUMP: They really dislike the president but I really think it’s not so much the president-they dislike the job he siding .He is close to incompetent

NYO: Close?

TRUMP: Yea, I’ll say close, because I want to be nice. Look at what he is doing in Libya which is a mess, or the gasoline prices which absolutely he can control and he said yesterday that the President has very little power what happens with gas. Well I disagree with that, because he’s got power over OPEC if he chose to use it. They are only there because of us. So you know the Tea Party views me as being very different than other people

NYO: There are a couple of draft movements. Are you monitoring them? What kind of metrics do they need to clear in order for you to get into the race?

TRUMP: The support I have had has been tremendous. There are a lot of independent parties that want me to run as an independent. The problem with that is that if I do that that would insure that Obama wins the election, so I am very hesitant to want to do that. But there are a lot of independent party representatives that want me to do it as an independent. And I poll very very strongly there. The problem is most of those votes will come out of the Republican Party so it’s a very dangerous thing to do, because the last thing we need is for Obama to come in for another four years

NYO: But are you monitoring the draft movements? What do they need to show you?

TRUMP: I am. I am honored by them actually. But I am equally honored by the polls. You know the polls are showing me something very special I believe in polls. I studied polls a little bit at the Wharton School of Finance, meaning I took a semester of polling. And it’s a pretty great science. Every poll has me leading or tied to for lead. That is very much an honor…If and when I announce some time prior to June I think the polls will go up very substantially.

NYO: How do you win the nomination?

TRUMP: If I do well in Iowa, if I do well in New Hampshire, if I do well in South Carolina and a couple of other places all of a sudden you’ve got yourself, you know, a presidential candidate

NYO: What do you feel like voters are looking for in a President, in a nominee?

TRUMP: I think they are looking to somebody that will stop the world from ripping us off. The world is ripping us off to the point where we are a laughing stock. The World is taking advantage of the United States and its stupidity in terms of its leadership. And I think they are looking for somebody who will really stop the world from ripping us off and they view me as the guy who can do that. And I agree with them.

NYO: You are somebody who doesn’t come out of the political class. Will you be given a longer leash for past indiscretions?

TRUMP: I think I am given a shorter leash. I think that the establishment hates the fact that I am leading in the polls. The establishment doesn’t understand how a non-politician could be winning. The writers have become friends with all of these politicians over the years. They know them, they dine with them, they develop friendships with them over the years, which is typical and now all of a sudden a party comes in who is leading everything and they don’t know him and they don’t really, you know, I think they are tougher on me then they are on everybody else.

NYO: But you have had a more checkered background than most presidential candidates?

TRUMP: In what way?

NYO: Well, the multiple marriages, for example. Newt Gingrich has had a few marriages and he gets raked over the coals for it. Is there a different standard for you, perhaps?

TRUMP: No. I do think that on social issues, they played a much bigger role ten years ago then they do now. Now I think they really want somebody who is super competent, that is a great businessperson, that knows what is going on. You have to understand. People say I haven’t been in politics. I have been in politics all my life. All you have to do is read your paper. I’ve been supporting people all my life, I’ve been dealing with foreign countries for the last 20 years. I’ve been supporting politicians from the time I came out of the Wharton School of Finance and even before that. So I know everybody. It’s not like I am not experience in this. I am probably more experienced in politics then most politicians. And some people understand that. I was actually called by a big senator yesterday and he was laughing because some writer said, “Oh Trump doesn’t have experience in politics and he said, You are more experienced than we are. And I agree with him.”…So are you surprised by what’s happened? This big surge? As David Gregory said on Meet the Press, it’s one of the great phenomenon we’ve seen for a while.

NYO: A lot of people have been dismissing it.

TRUMP: They are not dismissing it now

NYO: Did that inspire you to take it more seriously?

TRUMP: I didn’t understand why they were dismissing it because I’m one of the highest paid speakers in the world. I have a show that is one of the most successful shows on television and the number one show on NBC….and I’ve made billions of dollars and put tens of thousands of people to work and I didn’t understand how did they dismiss somebody like that. Never made sense to me. Now they are starting to say, ‘Oh I guess we shouldn’t have.’

NYO: But has all of that made you want to do it more?

TRUMP: Well, I think the poll results are very gratifying. When you see you are leading every poll those results are very gratifying to be honest with you. Lets say I’m doing everything I am doing now and I was (names a presidential contender) who had zero. Zero or (names another) who had two, who was at two points instead of 26 points. I’d say well I guess it’s not working and I wouldn’t be wasting much time. You know, it’s a little like a Broadway play. It either works or it doesn’t work. You know they have Broadway plays they know on opening night whether or not that’s going to be a success. Very rarely does a Broadway play open poorly and become successful over a period of time. It’s either a hit or its not a hit this is not so much different. You can go up or you can go down but there are some people (names another candidate) is not going to work, and some of these other people that are running, just not going to work You can tell very early on. Keep those names off the record because I’ve got enough enemies. But a Broadway play opens and people say, we have a smash. That’s what happened with me

NYO: If you don’t run, will you continue to speak out on these issues?

TRUMP: No, maybe not. Then I go back to my business and let these people do the best they can, but I don’t see anybody out there that is going to save this country

Q&A: Trump Talks Tea Party, Polls, and His Presidential Prospects