Despite Offensive Comments, Donald Trump Polls Strong In New Hampshire
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
For businessman, reality TV star and now Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, it has been a good week, and it has been a bad week. Trump has seen some of his business deals fall apart because of his inflammatory statements on immigration. But his poll numbers are strong in early primary states, and he drew hundreds of people during a campaign stop in New Hampshire. To get a sense of Trump's appeal, Josh Rogers of New Hampshire Public Radio followed the candidate around.
JOSH ROGERS: New Hampshire's a place where even the most high-profile candidates tend to court voters hat-in-hand - most candidates.
DONALD TRUMP: You know, it's very interesting. Somebody said I made a fantastic speech two weeks ago. They say my only problem is I speak through the applause, and I kill all the applause. And you know what? I understand that, but I don't have time to wait. I don't care. I don't care.
ROGERS: More than 200 supporters came out to see Donald Trump in the wealthy, highly Republican town of Bedford. They crowded around the edge of a backyard swimming pool as he spoke off the cuff for close to an hour.
TRUMP: We're stupid. Our leaders are stupid people. They are incompetent.
ROGERS: But Trump's incendiary comments on immigration and his blanket accusation that Mexicans bring drugs and crime across the border have hurt his business interests. NBC, the Spanish-language station Univision and Macy's all cut ties with Trump this week. In New Hampshire, Trump brandished a sheaf of news articles he says backs him up.
TRUMP: I have hundreds of these articles - hundreds. (Reading) Illegal alien rapes and murders young baby in New Mexico.
OK? By the way - hundreds of these articles.
ROGERS: To supporters, this sort of talk is at the center of Trump's appeal. Steve Stepanek is Trump's New Hampshire campaign chairman.
STEVE STEPANEK: He's telling people what everybody wants to say but is afraid to say.
ROGERS: Phyllis York, a retiree, says the GOP needs what Trump has.
PHYLLIS YORK: It's time to see what we can do with someone more aggressive, someone whose style is - I don't care what you think, we're going to try this.
ROGERS: Some New Hampshire Republicans say Trump's campaign is a sideshow, but they doubt it will have a lasting effect on the presidential race. Tom Rath is a former National Committee member who says the state's citizens take their first-in-the-nation primary vote seriously.
TOM RATH: And it would be hard for anybody to say that a vote for Donald Trump would be anything other than a waste.
ROGERS: While the polls do put Trump in second place, they also point to a big weakness - most primary voters view him negatively. Still, based on the current numbers, Trump stands a chance of landing a spot in the first GOP debate next month in Ohio. His backers are already relishing the opportunity.
JEFF KASSEL: People are going to have to come out swinging. He's the Mike Tyson of the Republican Party.
ROGERS: Former psychologist Jeff Kassel says he voted for President Obama over Mitt Romney four years ago, in part because Obama was the more exciting candidate.
KASSEL: I think we're at a point where narcissism is meeting history - colliding with it.
ROGERS: By that measure, Kassel says, 2016 should be a very good year for Donald Trump. For NPR News, I'm Josh Rogers in Concord, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.