Don't dismiss Donald Trump's appeal, says longtime political writer Mark Halperin

Analyst says the Republican frontrunner is the second-best presidential campaigner he's ever seen run, trumped only by this president

May 2, 2016 @ 2:03 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Even the author of “Game Change” is baffled by the 2016 presidential election.

Mark Halperin, managing editor of Bloomberg Politics and a former political reporter for ABC News and Time, said the candidates in this year's race make it unique and unpredictable.

“This is an impossible thing to game out,” Mr. Halperin told an audience of about 300 at the InvestmentNews Retirement Income Summit on Monday in Chicago.

(More: On verge of GOP nomination, advisers say Trump is still largely unknown)

If Mr. Trump wins the Republican nomination, he could implode in the general election, thanks to his high disapproval ratings, or he could become the vessel of change for millions of Americans fed up with what's happening in Washington.

Don't dismiss Mr. Trump's appeal, warned Mr. Halperin, whose book about the 2008 presidential campaign, “Game Change,” written with John Heilemann, was turned into an HBO mini-series.

“Trump is someone people can relate to,” Mr. Halperin said. “They see him as someone who understands their aspirations. He's the second-best presidential candidate I've seen after Bill Clinton.”

Like Mr. Trump, Ms. Clinton receives high disapproval ratings. She has other problems as well: a lack of definition for her campaign and the perception that she is part of the Washington establishment, according to Mr. Halperin.

“She's never enunciated what she's about,” Mr. Halperin said. “It's going to be difficult for her to be the candidate for change in this race.”

(More: Where Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the candidates stand on Social Security)

Although she is likely to put away Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and win the Democratic nomination, Mr. Sanders has brought something new to the campaign, Mr. Halperin said, by capturing states while trailing Ms. Clinton in fundraising.

“It doesn't take the most money to win,” Mr. Halperin said. “Ideas matter.”

Voters should brace for a nasty fight between Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton.

“This will not be an edifying election,” Mr. Halperin said. “This will be personal, stylistic and tough.”

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