Dickerson on Thursday’s Debate: Attacking Trump ‘Would Be a High Wire Act’

‘The most interesting number in our poll is that 79 percent of respondents says that [Trump] says what he believes’

ROSE: “CBS News political director John Dickerson is the moderator of Face the Nation. He is in Manchester, New Hampshire. John, good morning.”
DICKERSON: “Good morning, Charlie.”
ROSE: “What did we learn from what happened last night and what does it indicate for what might happen later this week?”
DICKERSON: “Well, we didn't learn much from last night. Some New Hampshire voters may have learned something because they hadn't been watching these candidates as much as we have. But this was essentially, a sort of speed editing process where they were given a question and then they grabbed the paragraph from their stump speech and recited that. It was – it was as if this race were a kind of a happening at the normal pace where voters -- where candidates are still introducing themselves to voters, not a race that had been totally up-ended by Donald Trump. So it doesn't tell us much about Thursday night.”
O’DONNELL: “So after many predictions that Donald Trump would fall in the polls after his controversial remarks, it turns out, according to our new CBS poll just out this morning, that Trump leads among conservatives, Tea Party supporters, evangelicals and both men and women. What’s behind this support?”
DICKERSON: “I think the most interesting number in our poll is that 79 percent of the respondents say ‘he says what he believes’. For all the other candidates, they are in 50 percent or much lower on that crucial point. It appears to be the case right now that Donald Trump, the people are so starved for candor from politicians that they are rushing to him because he appears to say what is on his mind and that was -- he is just dominate in that category and that’s why he is doing well among all of those groups. Even the people who say they are not Tea Party supporters, he is basically neck and neck with Jeb Bush.”
KING: “But they also say that he inspires a lot of negative feelings, the same about Hillary Clinton, she too, it seems inspires a lot of negative feelings. What do you make of all the negativity in the race this early on?”
DICKERSON: “It means that Donald Trump has a big problem ahead of him. One of the interesting findings inside of our poll is the more people get to know him who are Republicans, the more they like him. But those who are registered voters, it's exactly the opposite. So the problem for Donald Trump is while he is growing among Republicans who are liking him, his problem is among the general electorate, and one of that things, Republican primary voters are going to have to resolve it is they want to elect somebody who can win in the general election and so far Donald Trump hasn't shown that he can increase his popularity among that larger electorate.”
ROSE: “OK. But back to Norah’s original question, how do these opponents of Trump believe they can stop him?”
DICKERSON: “He has to follow his own way. On Thursday night, for example, executing an attack on Trump that would be successful is a very high wire act and if there is a big chance you could fail. So these candidates have to show more of what –“
O’DONNELL: “I’m sorry, john. I was just going so say when Jeb Bush says he is coming to the debate with his big boy pants on, does that mean he is going to take on Trump?”
DICKERSON: “Well, it means he can't say I’m going to coward in the corner and whimper. He is going to take on Trump maybe if Trump attacks him but my guess is he wouldn't on his own.”
ROSE: “But others will?”
DICKERSON: “Maybe. But I’m not sure.”
O’DONNELL: “John Dickerson in New Hampshire. John, thank you so much.”

 

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