Sam Nunberg, a former aide to presidential candidate Donald Trump, says the Republican needs to make sure his speeches are “exciting yet serious” to keep up his campaign’s momentum. He also insists that Trump genuinely wants to be president and is willing to spend whatever it takes from his own fortune.
“He wants this,” Nunberg told The Daily Caller in a phone interview Friday. “He wants to win. He wants to be the next president of the United States. And he’s ready to do what he has to do.”
Nunberg, who was fired from the campaign after posts from his Facebook account from eight years ago surfaced in the press, agreed to answer questions from TheDC about Trump and the 2016 campaign. Here is a lightly-edited transcript of that conversation:
Donald Trump fired you after some of old posts from your Facebook page were revealed. You sent Rev. Al Sharpton an apology letter because of what was said. Did you ever hear back from him?
I never heard back from Rev. Sharpton personally. A reporter contacted him and he said he forgave me. He also said Mr. Trump did the right thing. It was done through an intermediary. Roger Stone helped coordinate to make sure Rev. Sharpton saw my apology.
You worked for Donald Trump. What did you do for him on a daily basis?
I worked for Mr. Trump for five years. And obviously, responsibilities and roles changed. I actually even never talked to him for the first year and half I worked for him. I did strategic communications, strategy, helping to develop his conservative and press outreach.
Look, in 2011 he was very serious about running. Afterwards, he publicly said he regretted not running last cycle. But getting to know him, I knew around 2013 he was actually going to run for president. And at that point, from my perspective [my job] was to help him evaluate the field that he’d be facing in the primary. And to help shape — to the extent that anybody can shape anything Mr. Trump says because, honestly, nobody puts words into his mouth — the platform and the policies of the campaign.
So you’re no longer on the payroll, but you were. Do you still consider yourself a supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign?
Yes, I consider myself a supporter of his campaign. Yes, I consider myself a friend of Mr. Trump’s. Yes, I’m a supporter of his campaign but I will say I’m talking to other campaigns.
I’m a supporter of the silent majority, the movement to make America great again, whether that can be Donald Trump or Sen. Cruz, Dr. Carson or Gov. Walker. The most important point for me from the outside now is making sure Jeb Bush is not the nominee. Making sure Hillary Clinton is not the next president of the United States.
You mention Cruz. You’re a political strategist so I’m interested in what you think about this: Trump and Cruz are about to do this event on the Iran deal together. What does Trump get out of teaming up with a competitor?
This helps him show that he is following the issue. People like that Mr. Trump is not a politician. But they’re also going to want him to show that he can get things done. In terms of teaming up with Sen. Cruz, I think it’s also a net positive for both of them. Sen. Cruz shows that he can bring Mr. Trump into an issue and a forum and get more publicity, obviously.
I think Sen. Cruz is doing a very smart move. I think he is extremely shrewd, I think he’s playing the long game. And he’s developed a rapport with Mr. Trump in meetings since 2013. I helped coordinate those meetings, by the way. And his staff and the staff of the Trump campaign talk frequently. I just think it’s a net positive for both.
Obviously, when it comes to the end of the primary, should Mr. Trump and Sen. Cruz both still be in the race, one of them is going to try to win, right? They’re both going to try to win. And at that point, I’d be interested in seeing what happens. I think that Sen. Cruz has a big opening himself for the nomination, and I think that doing what he’s doing now with Mr. Trump shows he has a long game and he’s trying to win.
What does Trump need to not do to avoid losing momentum? If you were advising him, what would you tell him?
He needs to talk publicly about an economic policy. All voters say that economics, the economy, is their number one priority. He needs to make sure that all the primary voters can see he understands the national security/foreign policy issues and the military. Because going into the fall now, as we are, people are going to start paying more attention and a different kind of attention.
What Mr. Trump needs to do, more importantly, is to make sure that he’s able to keep his speeches not stale, which they’re not that, but also make sure that he can keep them exciting yet serious. In other words, what you don’t want are primary voters to start saying, ‘well, we like Trump, but the Trump phenomenon is now over. Now lets go to somebody else.’
Is he building an adequate ground game in places like Iowa, where that’s so important?
Yes. Short answer is yes.
The campaign is bottom heavy. I’m not going to comment on the top. But he has the most staff members in Iowa. He has the most staff members in New Hampshire. He has the most staff members in South Carolina.
I believe personally that Iowa and South Carolina will lead to the nomination this cycle. So yes, on your question on the ground game, yes, he has the infrastructure in the states.
Is Donald Trump willing to spend the necessary personal money to win?
Yes, I think he’s willing to spend it. But he has to see a pathway to win. In other words, Mr. Trump is a businessman. He’s not going to stay in and he’s not going to spend the money necessary to win if it doesn’t look like there’s a necessary chance for him to win. But, and here’s the but, he will spend as much as it takes to win if he thinks he can.
Mr. Trump wants this. I can tell you from talking to him this week. He wants this. He wants to win. He wants to be the next president of the United States. And he’s ready to do what he has to do.
You’ve worked closely with Roger Stone, who has also left the campaign. Mike Murphy, who runs the Jeb super PAC, criticized the Trump campaign for not completely filling that stadium for the Alabama rally last week. He said that’s “not an error @RogerJStoneJr would have made.” Do you agree?
Roger Stone makes no errors. That’s my answer.