Rudy Giuliani, who has known fellow New Yorker Donald Trump for more than two decades, says the brash real estate mogul reminds him of another unlikely presidential candidate: Ronald Reagan.
Both Wednesday night, on MSNBC's "Hardball" program and again on CNN's "New Day"
show on Thursday, the former New York mayor said that there is more to Trump than may meet the eye, because at first, people didn't take Reagan seriously, either.
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In an appearance on MSNBC's Hardball on Wednesday evening
, the former New York City mayor praised Trump, saying he has a little bit of Reagan in him.
"First of all, he's not a Roman candle," Giuliani told host Hardball host Chris Matthews. "This is a very smart guy. This is a person who is media savvy in ways that some of the other candidates aren't. And he's a lot more substantive than you realize. I've known Donald 25 years. Meaning, he understands a lot of the world issues with a lot more depth than you probably realize."
"So we might have a little of a Ronald Reagan here, a guy they underestimate," he continued, noting that as he is friends with five or six of the GOP candidates, he's having a hard time deciding who he wants to win the 2016 primary.
"But I expect Donald Trump is going to do pretty darn well tomorrow night," he told Matthews about the upcoming debate.
Thursday morning on CNN, the former mayor reiterated his views during a back-and-forth with John Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire and White House chief of staff for President George H.W. Bush.
"A lot of stuff Ronald Reagan said didn't sound realistic," Giuliani said. "[But] I think Americans are thirsting for somebody who's tough. And some of the stuff you might not agree with that Donald is saying, but he sounds like a guy who's going to take charge ... I think people that like him and people that don't even like him that much are reacting to that."
Fox News Senior Political Analyst Brit Hume, discussing Giuliani's comments on "America's Newsroom," said that he doesn't really see the comparison.
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"He knows him very well and he sees things that hasn't been evidenced in the campaign," Hume said about Giuliani. "Donald Trump doesn't particularly remind me of Ronald Reagan, but I don't know him that well."
But should Trump take the debate stage and demonstrate "a fairly commanding knowledge of the issues, his fans, who are already committed to him, will love that," Hume continued. "A lot of people who didn't think had it in him may take a new look at him. He is the guy who tonight could hit the home run. All eyes will be on him. If he does poorly that is whole another story. If Giuliani is right, my sense we'll have Trump in the middle of for a while longer."
On CNN, Giuliani had even more expectations for Trump.
"Let's be respectful to him because we don't want a third party candidate. I mean, give him a shot," said Giuliani. "Let's give him his shot to show the American people he can be presidential. Or if he's going to destroy himself, let him destroy himself. Don't make the mistake of shutting him off like he's stupid, because he's not. This is the most successful man. He has the most television show on that stage by a lot. He's the only one who had a hit show."
Sununu was not having that explanation, though, noting that the Kardashians also have a hit reality show, and while he doesn't think Kim, Kourtney and Khloe or the other members of the TV family should run for the presidency, "I'm saying Trump shouldn't."
Meanwhile, Giuliani said Thursday that there is a lot more to winning the debates than just preparing to say the right things.
"I spent a lot of time with policy briefings, with all your people around the room going what are you going to ask about Iran, what are your going to ask about the budget?" Giuliani said of his campaign in 2008. "My head was spinning. We worked with just one person and I found that more effective. On the day of the debate, I kind of relaxed. It's like an exam. I now know everything I can know. Now the question is, can I be relaxed, perform?"
He said he would recommend the 17 taking the debate stages to "smile appropriately. Your look is as important as what you say," as Americans will see the people on stage "far more than they'll hear their message."
Sununu agreed that demeanor is also as important as what the candidates say, "as long as they don't say something dumb."
"They've got to look presidential," he continued. "They've got to handle the questions and the response. And if that punch comes along, they've got to react in a presidential way rather than in an emotional way."
And he thinks the debate could be the beginning of Trump's downfall.
"I think it's going to happen more with a whimper than a bang when Trump falls," said Sununu. "I think a perfect example of why is his silly statement that he's going to make the Mexicans pay for the wall. Look, you've got to understand the world. He may be a great reality mogul. He may be a great showman. But in some of the stuff he says, it is clear he doesn't understand the responsibility and the role of the president of the United States."
But the debates are the official beginning of the campaign for the Republican nomination, so he doesn't expect the frontrunner to completely fail just because of the debate.
"People may like the words they're hearing now, but there's a guy behind these words who's a great showman, loves to brag about himself," he said. "But in terms of the details of policy, how you negotiate policy with a Congress, how you deal with foreign leaders, how you re-establish America's reputation around the world, that's not the guy you want."
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