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GOP Fundraiser: The 2 Worst Candidates Are Running Against Each Other


Let's return to one of the voices we've heard during this dramatic election year. Jamie Wareham is a Washington attorney who raised money for Jeb Bush during the Republican primaries. We last heard from Wareham as Jeb Bush withdrew last spring. Now Jamie Wareham is back on the line. Welcome back to the program.

JAMIE WAREHAM: Thank you. Good to be back.

INSKEEP: Let's hear the way that you described Donald Trump back in the spring. Let's play a bit of that tape.


WAREHAM: His brand basically is flash, casinos and glitzy buildings and self-promotion and failed marriages and, you know, goofy hair. And if you can't beat that guy, then somebody ought to be horsewhipped.

INSKEEP: That was your view back during the primaries when Jeb Bush pulled out relatively early. He turned out to defeat the whole Republican field. And here he is on Election Day with at least a shot at winning. What does it mean that he has gotten a lot closer to the presidency than many people expected?

WAREHAM: Well, it's a very bizarre election season. He's a shockingly unfortunate nominee for my party. And I think if you're a Democrat, you're looking at somebody who's also untrustworthy, unlikable and unfit. So I think it says more about the process than it does either party. Where we are now is really, quite honestly, the two worst candidates in my lifetime happen to be running against each other. So it's a race to the bottom.

INSKEEP: Do you think Republicans are learning any lessons from the experience of this year?

WAREHAM: I'm not clear yet. I think it's going to have to play itself out for several months. The election's results are not going to be a mandate on any set of policies or any set of persons. So, you know, if we were to lose the House or something unexpected or if the Senate were to turn markedly towards the Democratic side, there might be a lesson in that. I don't expect either of those things to happen.

I don't think the presidential results tell us much unless there's some kind of Brexit shocking surprise and Trump were to win.

INSKEEP: You've watched this election year. We know what you think of Donald Trump. Are there other Republicans, do you think, who have emerged this year as potential future stars?

WAREHAM: That's a difficult question. The only person I think that has taken a lot of limelight and maybe has an increased future is Paul Ryan. Now he also has some increased risk and negatives. Those that are very, very much in favor Donald Trump may look upon him critically and skeptically going forward. I mean, the one thing you know is that the media gave Trump a billion dollars to become Trump.

INSKEEP: You mean in terms of free attention, yeah.

WAREHAM: Oh, yeah, yeah - anybody trying to penetrate through this noise would've been wasting breath. So I think, by design, a lot of people laid in the weeds over the last four to six months. And we will see people showing up in Iowa, New Hampshire probably by May, if not earlier.

INSKEEP: But Paul Ryan - what an interesting case study there because this is a guy who endorsed Donald Trump but then criticized him. He was criticized, in turn, by Trump and yet is also criticized by people who are fiercely against Trump. Jennifer Rubin, a conservative blogger in The Washington Post, has written denunciations of Ryan again and again, including this week.

WAREHAM: No, I can see that point. I mean, that's one of the difficulties of being House leader. We saw John Boehner go through dealing with a divided party. But I think on the Democratic side, it wouldn't be much easier. You have the far, far left, the Warrens and the Sanders of the world, and then you have the far left and Hillary's crowd.

And sometimes the far, far left is just not satiated by moving left, just like in the Republican Party the far, far right is sometimes not satiated by standard dyed-in-the-wool conservatives like Paul Ryan or Jeb Bush or John Kasich.

INSKEEP: Sounds like you're expecting more political combat whoever wins the presidential contest.

WAREHAM: I think that's for sure. This election will settle who sits in the White House. But I don't think it'll settle the direction of either party.

INSKEEP: Well, Jamie Wareham thanks for sharing your thoughts - appreciate it.

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