Establishment Stalwart: Trump is for Real

Former Trump critic says mogul is 'conservative enough,' calls him a ‘rock star’

Insider Republicans need to recognize that front-runner Donald Trump has changed the rules of the game. So says Patrick Griffin, a stalwart member of the GOP Establishment.

Griffin, a former aide to both of the Bush presidents and an adviser to the Mitt Romney campaign, said Tuesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that the Establishment cannot compete with Trump.

“As a card-carrying member of the Establishment, OK, I know this from the scars on me,” he said. “Rooting for the Establishment right now, Laura, is like holding lighters up at a Peter, Paul and Mary concert when a Stones concert is going on. It’s very, very hard to go back.”

Trump is “conservative enough,” said Griffin, and has been able to “break through and, essentially, become a rock star.”

For Griffin, managing partner of Purple Strategies New England, it is a far cry from his view of Trump over the summer. In July, during an appearance on WRKO radio in Boston, he confidently predicted that the real estate tycoon was a flash in the pan, suggested that he was in it for himself, and compared his entourage to the “yes men” surrounding the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il.

“I’m not sure that’s a long-term fix for anybody,” he said. “The point is, it makes angry, frustrated voters feel good for now. Don’t worry though, it’s temporary, and this, too, shall pass.”

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Griffin told Ingraham on Tuesday that voters feel that Trump is speaking for them. He suggested that he misunderstood the brash New Yorker’s staying power.

“If you’re defending the status quo that has been unsuccessful, and voters feel that, then, unfortunately, you’re defending the indefensible, and Trump is not doing that,” he said.

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Still, Griffin said, he anticipates continued resistance from some Establishment quarters to Trump’s populist appeal on issues like trade and immigration.

“I don’t know that Establishment learns much of anything, other than when Trump speaks strong but about a wall, it’s a metaphor,” he said. “Maybe it’s not a physical wall, but it’s a metaphor to say, ‘Enough’ … When Trump says, ‘bad deal,’ he is an authority on bad deals.”

Trump’s critics within the Republican Party will have little choice in a few weeks if the primaries play out like New Hampshire and South Carolina.

“Will the Establishment members of the Republican Party learn from this?” he asked. “They may just have to.”

But one lingering area of concern for Trump, Griffin said, is whether he can expand beyond his enthusiastic base a build a winning a coalition in the general election.

“The question is, how does he create more than a third of Republican voters who will ultimately vote for him in a national election, which is what we really want to get to if we want to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House?” he said.

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