ST. PAUL, Minn. – After clashes unfolded Friday in Chicago between Trump supporters and protestors, Donald Trump defended where he stands on increasingly violent chaos at his rallies, appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.
“One of your supporters decided to sucker punch a protester. Do you accept any responsibility for creating this atmosphere?” asked Todd.
“I don't accept responsibility. I do not condone violence in any shape,” replied Trump.
“It seems like Trump is explicitly or implicitly is encouraging kind of thuggish behavior, something unusual in American politics,” said David Schultz, Hamline University political science professor.
To Schultz, partially what's happening at these rallies is fueled by voters’ economic frustrations.
“A lot of people supporting Trump feel like they’ve been left out of our system for the past 25 to 30 years just feel incredibly, incredibly frustrated,” said Schultz. “More broadly, there is bipartisan blame that both Democrats and Republicans have not paid enough attention to white working class America, have not cared about working class and middle class America, written them off.”
Schultz said Trump’s core supporters were once white, working class, without a college education, but noted that profile is changing as Trump begins to draw voters who feel disenfranchised from both major parties.
“There is a spectrum of his supporters – not all of them – but a spectrum of them that fit what often times psychologists call sort of call an authoritarian personality. Those who are less supportive of civil liberties, who are more fearful of immigrants,” said Schultz. “Trump has tapped into that ugly side of American psychology and using it for political purposes.”
Schultz said the scuffles at the rallies appear to be increasingly staged.
“You sort of have the token, throw this person out kind of a thing, token fight. I hate to say it, this is almost like saying WWF, World Wrestling Federation comes to politics, we knew WWF was fake but it was the fantasy that people bought into to watch wrestling, in some sense, Trump has figured out politics is entertainment. A way of getting headlines and getting news and ability to get supporters and the attention he wants,” said Schultz.
So, in a race that has defied conventional wisdom, what does Trump's next act hold? Schultz says look to primaries on Tuesday, March 15th, especially in key states like Florida and Ohio.
“Now barring anything unforeseen, any major meltdowns, I would say Trump has an 80-85 percent chance of winning the nomination, almost seems to be nothing standing in his way,” said Schultz.
From Schultz's studies, perhaps not even more mayhem that's beginning to define Trump’s campaign trail.
“I am fully expecting the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, it’s going to look like Chicago in 1968. Scenes of Chicago 1968 of incredible demonstrations and police arrests outside the Democratic National Convention. I’m fully expecting to see the exact same thing in Cleveland and I don’t think it’s going to hurt Trump. I think it’s going to feed into his image, the kind of profile he wants,” said Schultz.