GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump is fond of calling U.S. leaders “stupid,” but he's now trumpeting his “great” relationships with them — even name-dropping senior Democrats.
“I think that I'm going to be able to get along with Pelosi. I think I'm going to be able to — I've always had a good relationship with Nancy Pelosi,” Trump said this week during a television interview , referring to the House Democratic leader from San Francisco. “I always had a decent relationship with [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid.” Reid is retiring at the end of the year, meaning he will not be in a position to negotiate legislation with the next president. There will be a new Senate Democratic leader, and he or she could be majority leader if voters hand Democrats control of the chamber.
No matter, says this kinder, gentler Trump, who predicts that as president, he would get on “very well” with “just about everybody” in Washington. And that includes Reid’s heir apparent, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.
“Hey, look, I think I'll be able to get along well with Chuck Schumer,” Trump said. “I was always very good with Schumer. I was close to Schumer in many ways.”
That's a change from early September, when Trump stood in front of the Capitol and declared during a rally opposing the Iran nuclear deal: “We are led by very, very stupid people.” He went on to tell a large audience “we cannot beat anybody” with those individuals in charge.
“It will change. We will have so much winning if I get elected that you might get bored with winning,” Trump said at the time. “We are going to turn this country around.”
The candidate’s campaign has been called a movement by some. Former Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee Wayne Allyn Root, in a recent blog post , branded the businessman’s White House bid as “The Trump Revolution of working class stiffs.” It is being fueled by “good people,” he wrote. “Honest people. Hard working people. Salt of the earth. The foundation of America.”
To be sure, self-described conservatives. That is a big reason why Trump’s recent embrace of Democratic leaders loathed by those kinds of GOP voters, his personal base, is curious — and shrewd.
As Trump emerges as the Republican's front-runner, he seems to recognize that his slash-and-burn style of campaigning would be a hindrance to getting very much done as president.
“It's important that you get along. It's wonderful to say you're a maverick ... but you have to get somebody to go along with you,” he said of the D.C. governing process. “You have a lot of people. We have a system. The founders created the system that actually is a very good system. It does work, but it can't work if you can get nobody to go along with you.”
And Trump is describing himself as the lone GOP front-runner who can get things done, talking early and often each day on the trail about his ability to cut big business deals.
“That's the problem that you have with Ted Cruz,” he said of the Texas GOP senator running second to him in Iowa, New Hampshire and nationally. “He is a guy that nobody [in Washington] likes and nobody trusts — and he is a nasty guy. He says things that are very nasty. So I have to be nastier than him. It's just one of those things.”
Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said Trump’s efforts to warm up to top Democrats likely will not hurt him with his core supporters.
“Remember when Trump suggested that he could shoot someone and not lose any supporters? Well, to some Republicans, a candidate saying he has a great relationship with Reid and Pelosi might be worse,” Kondik said. “But it just goes to show the leeway that some of Trump's supporters are willing to give him, a leeway that Trump certainly recognizes.
“This also suggests that if Trump were to get the nomination he would become a very different candidate,” he added, “a candidate that might not be quite as easy to defeat in a general election as many Democrats now think.”
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