Donald Trump is a brand, and his New Hampshire supporters are itching to buy it.
A Bloomberg Politics focus group of 12 Republican and independent voters who are supportive of Donald Trump's presidential candidacy shed light Wednesday night on the billionaire's swift rise to the top of the GOP field, and confirmed that his brash, “You're fired!” style and lack of experience in politics is more of an asset than a liability.
“He says it like it is,” said Jessica, a data analyst, during the focus group in the first-in-the-nation primary state, conducted by Purple Strategies at St. Anselm College in Manchester. “He speaks the truth.”
“He's willing to tell you his opinion,” Andrew, an educator, said. “So many other politicians won't take an opinion.”
Many said Trump's success in the business world appealed to them.
“Business, we need business and I like his roughness,” said Danielle, a financial-planning consultant, adding, “He's just tough, we need someone tough.”
“Donald Trump is strong,” Nick, a home inspector, said. “He carries a sentiment and frustrations that I think a lot of Americans are going through and feeling right now. He's the one that's able to articulate that, and bring those frustrations to light. I believe him when he talks.”
In a 90-minute conversation with Bloomberg Politics managing editor and With All Due Respect co-host John Heilemann, the voters, five of whom identified themselves as members of the Tea Party, were unanimous in saying that they'd learned about Trump before his entry into the presidential race. Most said they had gotten some knowledge of the billionaire through his business dealings and before his Apprentice reality-television stint.
“I was a little girl, and I didn't even know what Trump Towers were, but I knew that he was a wealthy, successful man and I remember asking my mother if I could write him a letter to ask him how he made his money,” Jessica said.
Though Trump's considerable wealth—which the Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates at $2.9 billion—resonated with those who participated in the focus group, many seemed to regard him as being on the same page as ordinary Americans.
“He's like one of us. He may be a millionaire, which separates him from everybody else, but besides the money issue, he's still in tune with what everybody is wanting,” Janet, a former dog breeder, said.
When asked to cite Trump's positions on a variety of issues, many of in the group were less able to articulate where the candidate stands.
“I honestly don't know where he stands on all the issues,” Jessica said. “That's why he was in my top three, but he's not number one.”
What did seem appealing, however, was Trump's resolve.
“I haven't heard a lot of positions,” Andy said. “But one thing is when he takes a position, and I'll use the John McCain thing, he didn't turn around two days later and say 'Oh no, that's not what I'm supposed to say.' He stayed with what he believed in, and that's, to me, what I'm looking for.”
For others, broad outlines to solve daunting problems were enough for now.
“Specifically, he said he'll put a wall on the southern border,” Roger, who works with the elderly, said. “When you talk about common sense, that's a common-sense thing to do.”
Even as the group praised Trump's directness, some worried it could be his undoing in the race.
“I think potentially, he could cross over with some inappropriate comments,” said Andy, adding, “And it would very much concern me if he was the nominee.”
“I could see him being a hothead,” Fred, a tax preparer, said.
Trump's remarks about whether McCain, the Arizona senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee, should be described as a war hero rubbed some in the group the wrong way.
“I thought that was disrespectful,” said Jean, a banker. “Regardless of whether he [McCain] was technically a war hero or not, it was disrespectful.”
As for Trump's characterization of undocumented immigrants as “rapists,” however, many in the room said it didn't bother them.
By and large, however, the group seemed optimistic about Trump's chances of reaching the White House, in part because of his status as a Washington outsider. When asked what they envisioned for a Trump presidency, the responses belied just how invested some had become in that vision.
“Classy,” said Cheryl, a real estate agent.
“I think it would be exciting,” Roger said. “I really do. I look forward to it. It'll be an interesting thing every day.”
“I think he'd be calling out everybody,” John, a construction worker, said. “I think it'd be pretty good.”
Some even foresaw that day in terms familiar to many Democrats.
“He would surround himself with the best and the brightest,” retired school teacher Don said. “To the American people it would be a presidency of hope.”
The participants were from the Manchester area and and represented a variety of ages and socio-economic and educational backgrounds. They agreed to be quoted without their last names. Qualitative research results cannot be statistically analyzed or projected onto the broader population at large. As is customary, respondents were compensated for their participation.
For more video and analysis of the focus group, watch With All Due Respect Thursday at 5 p.m. ET on Bloomberg TV and BloombergPolitics.com.