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Politics & Government

Should The Republican Party Worry About The Trump Phenomenon?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We offer now another conservative woman's perspective on the Republican Party's Trump phenomenon. Her name is Mary Kate Cary. She was a speech writer for George H. W. Bush. Welcome to the program.

MARY KATE CARY: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MARTIN: So is this the beginning of the end for Donald Trump?

CARY: You know, I think we're all hoping it is (laughter), most Republicans and especially now many Republican women. The last time the Republican Party won a majority of the women's vote was in 1988 with my boss; George H. W. Bush won the women's vote. And I think we'd all like to get back to a place where that happens again.

MARTIN: Why has Trump been able to capture the kind of attention that he has? People keep saying he's tapping into something. He's tapping into a real anger among a faction of the Republican Party.

CARY: Yeah, the thing I hear the most often is that he says what he thinks. And most politicians are perceived as not doing that. But keep in mind, it's in Trump's best interest for everybody to keep talking about Donald Trump. And frankly, it's in Hillary Clinton's best interest for everybody to be talking about Donald Trump. And so the problem is when Donald Trump is talking, usually it's bad for the Republican brand because he's usually being rude or mean or unkind or disrespectful or making sweeping generalizations about groups of people. If he was talking about why he thinks a flat tax is a great idea, we wouldn't be having this problem.

MARTIN: How should his rivals react to him?

CARY: Well, my advice a week or two ago would have been don't feed the beast. Do not keep reacting to Donald Trump and making it a second-day news story. And that was fine when he was waving around Lindsey Graham's cell phone number, for example. But once he started insulting women, especially ones who are on Fox News (laughter) my advice changed. And I would say you have to disavow this pattern of insulting women. And so that to me is also smart politically. If you look at the latest CBS poll, pre-debate, 62 percent of women had dis-favorable, unfavorable view of Trump. And among GOP women, he was also underwater. And that was before he went after Megyn Kelly as being hormonal. And so I can't imagine what his unfavorables are going to be post-debate. But if they're that high, you've got to disavow it.

MARTIN: You say Trump has been bad for the brand, for the Republican brand in this election. So how worried should GOP Party leaders be about whether he might go off and run as an Independent if he doesn't capture the nomination?

CARY: Well, the way he has said it is he will run as an Independent if he feels the party is not treating him fairly. And that's a little different than people like Erick Erickson disinviting him. As long as Reince Priebus keeps an even hand with, you know, allowing him to remain on the debate stage or not tilting the rules against him, I think Trump may behave more like an adult. But I think you're exactly right. That is the biggest fear of the Republican establishment, is that he will run as an Independent because everybody remembers what Ross Perot did in '92. And it's widely believed amongst that crowd that that's what cost George H. W. Bush the election. However. if Trump's unfavorables, especially amongst women, continue to keep climbing, that makes him a third-party threat much less - because at what point do you lose the women's vote, which is 53 percent of the electorate? So that removes the sting of his campaign.

MARTIN: Political commentator Mary Kate Cary. She served as a speechwriter for President George H. W. Bush. Thanks so much for talking with us.

CARY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.