In May of 2016, I edited an essay by Jerry Cave, offering his analysis of Trump’s success in the Republican primaries. Cave argued that “by taking [Pat] Buchanan’s positions, blending them with [Howard] Stern’s tactics, and adding in his own talent, Trump has managed to produce a success that is all his own.”
I often thought of Cave in the months that followed, and not just because we maintained a regular correspondence, in which he endeavored to convince me that Trump’s election was inevitable. Cave had been a news-radio executive, an advertising manager, and a magazine publisher, and is now a media consultant. He approved of Trump’s message, and enthusiastically supported his campaign. But more than that, he drew on his own decades in media and marketing to explain why he thought Trump would be more successful than polls or pundits were predicting.
I promised that I’d call him up when the election was over, whatever its result, to talk through what he’d observed. And so we spoke last week; our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Yoni Appelbaum: What was the moment at which you thought that Donald Trump was actually going to win this election?
Jerry Cave: Two times. One: His very first speech on illegal immigration, because it was not about illegal immigration. That speech—if you read into it—said really everything. It was really about blue-collar jobs that had been outsourced to manufacturers and insourced with both skilled and unskilled labor. So he was speaking to the blue-collar market, which has been underserved by politicians both rhetorically and in fact. That I knew was the key to this. The second time, I’m literally sitting on the couch in January. He hammered Jeb Bush and they said ‘Why are you hammering him?’ and he goes, ‘Well I figured he’s the guy to beat, but he’s so weak I gotta pick somebody else.’ He said, ‘I gotta pick somebody else.’