Is The Donald serious? As his poll numbers continue to soar, it’s starting to look that way. On TV, Trump headlines The Apprentice, but on the telephone with me he sounded like he was considering a presidential run. He even invited me to his press conference later this spring, where he could announce his decision. One of the biggest obstacles for the Republican Party is they’ve yet to find a candidate with the same mass appeal and charisma as Barack Obama. If Trump runs, he’ll dominate the airwaves. He could actually pull it off in the same way Arnold Schwarzenegger surprised the pundits and became the governor of California. I talked to Trump about his chances.
Donald Trump: So are we doing a radio show?
Meghan McCain: No, this is an interview for The Daily Beast.
Donald: Oh, OK, good. I like you. I see you a lot on television. I like you and I like your father, I’ll tell you. And I like your mother. I like your whole family. Hey look, I supported your family, right?
Meghan: I’m at home in Arizona right now, and I told my mom I was interviewing you, and she was like, “I think he can really do this.”
Donald: Your mom is great. And your father’s great. To be honest with you, Bush made it so bad that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have beaten Obama. The world was crashing! If you remember six months before, your father was way up. But when the world crashed, nobody as a Republican could have done it.
Meghan: This morning, the front page of the Drudge Report had Obama at 49 percent and you’re at 34 percent, and you haven’t even announced. Why do you think you’ve made such an impact already? Why do you think you’re catching on in a way that Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty really aren’t?
Donald: Well, the polls have been very gratifying. One of the pollsters actually said to me that my numbers would be better—and I’m leading in just about every poll—if people thought I was going to run, because a lot of people don’t think I’m going to run, and they think it’s because of The Apprentice. And I say, give me a break! The Apprentice has very high ratings. I don’t need this to get ratings. It’s already the top show on NBC. You understand that. So I think I resonate because I do get along really well with people. For instance, I spoke in front of the Tea Party over the weekend in Boca Raton, Florida, and they were expecting 250 people, and when it was announced that I was going to speak they had 6,000 people. I think the reason that it’s resonating is because I say it like it is. China is ripping off this country to the tune of $300 billion this year! They don’t build product as good as we build it, but their currency is so manipulated that it’s very hard for our companies to compete. The OPEC nations—nobody is fighting OPEC. Yesterday Saudi Arabia said they’re going to reduce the outflow of oil! And that’s going to drive up prices even further! Iran is going to take over Iraq the minute we leave, and I say if that’s going to happen, all of those soldiers will have died in vain, and we will have spent $1.5 trillion that we could have used in this country. It wouldn’t happen under my watch.
“A lot of people don’t think I’m going to run, and they think it’s because of The Apprentice. And I say, ‘Give me a break!’ ”
Meghan: What’s interesting about you and your candidacy, I think that some people think it’s some sort of joke or publicity stunt. But even at dinner last night I was sitting with my friends, and it’s like the more people talk about it the more interested they are and the more convinced they are that you could be a nominee for the Republican Party. What I’m looking for is someone who’s not going to take bullshit, not going to let the media run them around, and who is going to give it back to Obama. And you seem to be the only person who’s really doing it right now.
Donald: I love your attitude. And I’ve seen your attitude, and that’s why I’m doing this interview.
Meghan: If you run for president, will you hire me for your campaign?
Donald: I like the idea! I love it! Will you do me a favor? See how I do, and you call me at the right time. I’m serious about it.
Meghan: As much as I like things about Mitt Romney—
Donald: No, he’s going to lose. He doesn’t resonate, you know? Or he would have won last time, in all fairness to your father! He was scheduled to win last time, and he didn’t because your father outdid him. You understand. I watched [Romney] make a speech, and it was all these little trivial statements. I’ll give you an example though of what you were saying before when you were talking about fighting Obama. This guy has more protection than any human being. When I mention why doesn’t he show his birth certificate, the press kills me! It’s unbelievable! But I keep mentioning it.
• View President Obama’s birth certificate at FactCheck.org.Meghan: Why do you think this birther thing still has such legs?
Donald: Because I think there’s something to it. For weeks, I said to people, “No, he was probably born here, but I’ll check into it.” You know a certificate of live birth is not a birth certificate and all that. I’m more and more convinced he may not have been born here.
Meghan: You sent people over to Hawaii to investigate, correct?
Meghan: Did you find anything?
Donald: Well, I better not comment on that yet.
Meghan: Are you really ready for this?
Donald: If I do it, Meghan, I’m ready. You have my word. If I do it, you will not be disappointed in my performance. That I can tell you. I won’t be lazy sitting home watching television. I’m a worker.
Meghan: Have you hired any advisers yet?
Donald: I’m thinking about it. Tell me, who do you like? Do you like Tony Fabrizio?
Meghan: Yeah, maybe.
Donald: How do you like McLaughlin? You know, the McLaughlin brothers?
Meghan: I’d say stay away from Steve Schmidt, who ran my father’s campaign.
Donald: So you like McLaughlin better than Fabrizio, between you and I?
Meghan: I do. I want to know, is your family ready?
Donald: My family’s ready. Hey Meghan, do you have somebody for me in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina?
Meghan: I do, actually. I could definitely help you.
Donald: Can you do me a favor, ’cause that’s very important. Those first three states are going to be very, very important. If you have some recommendations for those first three, I’d love it.
Meghan: I think you need to go to New Hampshire and should go to every single town hall and convince the people of New Hampshire that you’re the best candidate. But life on the road isn’t easy. Have you ever stayed at a Holiday Inn?
Donald: I wasn’t always rich. I used to stay at Holiday Inns all the time! Did you see Good Morning America today and the Today show?
Meghan: I didn’t like George Stephanopoulos’ questions.
Donald: Well, he’s so nasty, but I was nasty to him, too. The problem with the Today show is they kept clipping my answers. I’ll give an answer that’s three sentences long, and they’ll only leave the first sentence. And I hate that.
Meghan: If you run for president, people are going to be clipping your answers all the time.
Donald: Yeah, I know. Sound bites. A friend of mine called up and said, “Donald, don’t change your message.” I don’t want to change. The nice part about being wealthy is I can do what I want to do. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But I have to be honest.
Meghan: You have the least to lose of anyone.
Donald: Yeah. You watch what I do before June. And here’s what I want you to do. After I do it—maybe you can come over and see it because it will be a press conference—but you watch what I do and you come up and say hello to me, OK? You watch, Meghan. I’m not going to disappoint you. And more important, will you say hello to your mother and your father for me? I love them. They’re great people.
Meghan McCain is a columnist for The Daily Beast. Originally from Phoenix, she graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She is a New York Times bestselling children's author, previously wrote for Newsweek magazine, and created the website mccainblogette.com. Her most recent book, Dirty Sexy Politics, was published in August.