Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride
Down the homestretch with the impossible nominee.
By ROBERT DRAPER
Have you seen the latest polls? I’m beating Hillary.”
Donald Trump was on the phone with a man he had never met, a Republican delegate in Pennsylvania. It was May 2, one day before the Indiana primary election, and the private plane bearing his last name in gigantic letters was taxiing along a runway at Indianapolis International Airport. Trump proceeded to quote the numbers to the man in Pennsylvania: ahead of Clinton by 2 points in that day’s Rasmussen poll, 3 points behind her in the previous week’s George Washington University poll. These were the only two national polls at the moment that did not show him lagging behind the Democrat by a wide margin in the general election, but Trump was a businessman who preferred to negotiate using numbers that were in his favor.
“Boy, this ISIS,” he murmured.
“What’s the most dangerous place in the world you’ve been to?”
To win the nomination, he needed the support of 1,237 delegates. Achieving this was not as straightforward as simply winning the most votes in primaries. In each state, lifelong party officials largely controlled the delegate-selection process. This was the Republican establishment’s last front in its war against Trump — and Trump feared, not without cause, that his rivals would resort to whatever connivances were necessary to deny him a 1,237 majority and throw the Republican convention into a melee of multiple balloting and back-room deal-making.
Viewers were tuning in to the once-boring Republican debates in ratings-smashing numbers — and this, he argued, was “100 percent Donald Trump.” The party had become too obsessed with ideology. “One thing I’ve seen over the years,” he observed, “is that the Democrats stick together, and the Republicans eat their young. That’s why they lose so many elections. You know, a normal, very nice, very likable Republican would be hard pressed to win.”
Now, sipping his Coke, he cited his moderate-for-a-Republican view that Planned Parenthood was a valuable women’s health care organization, albeit one that should not receive federal funding as long as it performed abortions.
“Structurally, it’s very hard, almost impossible, for a heavily conservative Republican to win, because of the Electoral College. Whereas I bring in Michigan. Look at what I did in Michigan — I won it in a landslide, it wasn’t even close. So I bring in Michigan. I maybe bring in New York. Republicans don’t even go for the general election to campaign in New York, because there’s no chance.”