Congressman Daniel Donovan, the only Republican representing New York City in the House of Representatives, had words of praise today for his “personal friend” Donald Trump and for the Queens-born real estate magnate’s populist message—though he declined to make a formal endorsement in the GOP presidential primary.
Speaking to the Observer after an unrelated event in his native Staten Island, Mr. Donovan noted that the Republican field is currently 17 candidates strong and that the earliest primaries are still months away. He said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York Gov. George Pataki are also friends of his, and said he personally knew former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina—but argued Mr. Trump was enjoying frontrunner status because he was connecting with the concerns of the GOP electorate.
“Right now, I think he’s resonating with voters, it’s obviously in the polls, because he’s saying things to America that many Americans are frustrated with,” he said.
Instead of naming illegal immigration—Mr. Trump’s flagship issue—as part of the billionaire’s appeal to Republican voters, Mr. Donovan suggested the candidate was articulating a much broader discontent with the elected leadership in Washington, D.C.
“They’re frustrated with government, and I suspect there’s a lot of people home when they watch him on TV, start nodding their heads up and down and don’t even realize it,” he said, though he argued that the huge field was preventing a deep conversation about policy. “With so many people in the race, I don’t think anybody’s gotten an absolutely, an opportunity to distinguish themselves and talk about their issues.”
Mr. Donovan would not say if he hoped Mr. Trump would triumph in the primary, and said it was impossible to say who the nominee would be yet.
“He’s a personal friend of mine. Listen, he’s competing with 16 other people I think are as, are qualified as well,” the congressman said. “I think once the field clears out, we’ll see who the frontrunners are.”
Mr. Trump’s campaign has come under fire repeatedly: his kickoff speech claim that some undocumented Mexican immigrants are “rapists” “bringing drugs” here, his vows to build a wall along the southern border, his remarks about Arizona Senator John McCain and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and his unceremonious ejection of Univision reporter Jorge Ramos from a press conference. Most politicos do not believe he will be the GOP nominee, but have expressed astonishment at his continued strength in the polls, where he continues to dominate his competitors.
Mr. Donovan himself briefly became a national figure last while serving as Staten Island district attorney, after grand jury he impaneled declined to indict a white police officer involved in the homicide of Eric Garner, a black man. He was elected to Congress in a special election in May, replacing former Congressman Michael Grimm, who resigned amid a corruption scandal.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.