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Veteran Political Strategist No Johnny-Come-Lately On Trump Train


Here's an argument his opponents have used against Donald Trump, it is said that he offends or scares so many voters that if he is nominated by the Republican Party, he will lose in November. Let's toss that argument to Roger Stone, who is a longtime supporter and sometime adviser to Trump, also a writer - best-selling writer - and political provocateur. Mr. Stone, welcome to the program, sir.

ROGER STONE: Delighted to be here.

INSKEEP: Granting Donald Trump's success in the primaries so far, how does a man who is very, very well-known by the general public and disliked by 64 percent of voters, according to an NBC poll - how does a guy disliked by 64 percent win a general election?

STONE: Well, he's not running against nobody. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee is exceedingly polarizing herself. Well, her unfavorable's only in the 50s...


STONE: ...That's largely because Bernie Sanders has really not attacked her at the point of most vulnerability. So you're going to have two candidates here who are exceedingly polarizing. Trump, I think, has a certain cross-over appeal in those states that have been very badly affected by the international trade deals like NAFTA, TPP, so places like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, even upstate New York which would not normally be in play for any Republican, would be in play in this race. And I actually think Trump will poll what they used to call the Reagan Democrats as well as a substantial number of people who have never voted before or have stopped voting because they believe the system is rigged against the average man.

INSKEEP: Although, we should mention...

STONE: For example...

INSKEEP: ...If I could stop you for a second there - I mean, let's grant that there are Reagan Democrats out there. Demographically, there are fewer than there used to be or a smaller percentage than there used to be. Are you saying that the - Trump's hope would be to tear Hillary down to make sure that she is equally unpopular?

STONE: That's one way to capsulize it. Both candidates will be trying to target each other. This will be a slugfest. I don't think Sanders has particularly utilized the issues on which Hillary is most vulnerable. The constant harangue against Wall Street is fine, but she merely emulates him. Even though she's taking an enormous amount of money from Wall Street, I think she has other vulnerabilities - her abuse of women, her husband's sexual history, her tenure as secretary of state, the conflicts of interest in the Clinton Foundation, Benghazi. There's plenty of fodder there for a rough campaign.

INSKEEP: Now, let me just say we're not going to litigate those charges you just made, but let me ask about one other thing in the moment that we have here. We interviewed a number of Florida voters last weekend, including people who favor Donald Trump, who voted for Donald Trump in the Florida primary. And it was interesting what we heard from more than one voter. People were saying, OK, yeah, he's made these outrageous statements - Trump has - about deporting 11 million people, about banning Muslims from entering the United States for a time. And many voters said they don't agree with those policies, but they don't believe that Trump really means what he says, that he's just being provocative, starting a discussion. As someone who's known him for so long, do you believe that Trump means exactly what he says on those issues?

STONE: Actually, I think that's the fundamental cornerstone of his appeal. You can tell that he is not speaking from a script, not speaking from some polling that tells him what to say to be popular or some focus group or reading some speech written by a 25-year-old speech writer...

INSKEEP: Meaning you really think he wants to torture people...

STONE: ...What - well, he obviously believes in rougher treatment for terrorists than we are currently employing.

INSKEEP: And that he really wants to deport all 11 million people who are in the United States illegally. That's not just a negotiating position you think.

STONE: Well, I think he's made it clear he would start with those who have known criminal records based on the databases then he would go to those who are - have overstayed their visa. Now you have - you've lowered that number very substantially. I think it becomes problematic after that. But...


STONE: ...As a goal, yes, I think that is his goal.

INSKEEP: Mr. Stone, thanks very much, pleasure talking with you.

STONE: Delighted to be with you, thanks.

INSKEEP: Roger Stone is a veteran political strategist, supporter of Donald Trump and author of several political books including "The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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