Legendary political operative tells state GOP how it can win

DOVER — He’s been accused of working with Russia to help the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

He was banned from several news networks for personal attacks directed at journalists.

And he’s got a portrait of Richard Nixon tattooed on his back.

Exactly who Roger Stone is depends on who is asked, but there’s no denying that Mr. Stone is not afraid to speak his mind.

The guest of honor at the Delaware Republican Party’s annual convention, Mr. Stone — introduced Friday night as a legend in American politics — has worked to elect Republican presidents going back to Mr. Nixon and he’s been a friend of President Trump for decades.

Roger Stone

As usual, he did not mince words in his address.

He praised President Trump, blasted Democrats and the media and, in an interview before his address to the hundreds of Delaware Republicans gathered at Dover Downs, offered his thoughts on how the GOP can find success in Delaware.

Delaware is one of just six states with a Democratic governor and Democratic-controlled legislature, but Mr. Stone believes the state’s shift to red has already started.

There’s evidence to support that: Sussex County has more registered Republicans than Democrats; and the GOP can take control of the Senate by swinging just one seat next year.

Republicans can gain further ground by focusing on economic, rather than social, issues, Mr. Stone opined. Fighting gay marriage, for instance, is a great way to lose support among younger voters, he said.

“They have to figure out how to make inroads among independent and Democratic voters. Trump has demonstrated an ability to do that nationally, and I think it has to be extrapolated here,” he said.

“Better candidates is one of the answers, finding candidates who can appeal to all wins of the party. You can’t win with just the conservatives, you can’t win without the conservatives. That’s really one of Nixon’s most important rules.

“So, the Delaware party has to manage to nominate candidates with an appeal that holds together everybody in the party. At the same time, keep pulling enough independents and Democrats to win.”

While the Republican Party across the country has seen a shift to the right over the past decade as a result of the tea party movement — exemplified by Christine O’Donnell’s famous victory over U.S. Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware’s 2010 GOP U.S. Senate primary — fiscal conservatism still attracts voters.

The 2016 presidential election is an example of the draw of traditional Republican policies, Mr. Stone believes.

“Nobody voted for Donald Trump on the basis of abortion or gay marriage,” he said. “I think if the party will stick to the issues — foreign policy issues and economic issues — that bind all Republicans together, they can win again here in Delaware.”

But the election was also, he said in his address to the audience, a sign of Americans’ frustration with government: “The election of Donald Trump is a repudiation of (politics as usual and the philosophy of the GOP in recent years). This is the new Republican Party, the Republican Party of working people.”

Stone on Trump

Mr. Stone made numerous headlines during the presidential campaign, drawing fire for throwing personal attacks at reporters and perpetuating conspiracy theories directed at Hillary Clinton’s campaign, including unsupported allegations the campaign had ties to foreign Islamic organizations.

He’s also been accused of collaborating with Russia to undermine Mrs. Clinton’s bid for the White House, something he called in his speech “a steaming plate of B.S.”

There was a candidate influenced by Russia — Hillary Clinton, Mr. Stone claimed.

Repeating a claim previously made by President Trump, Mr. Stone said President Obama wiretapped Trump Towers — a statement that has been denied by U.S. intelligence officials who served during President Obama’s administration. Mr. Stone insisted the wiretap took place, calling it “Watergate times 10.”

His speech included plenty of praise for President Trump, as well as shots at the Clintons.

The Clinton Foundation was a “slush fund for grifters,” while Mrs. Clinton “is cold, abrasive, short-tempered,” he said. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, is the “party of liberal elitists” who defend Islamic terrorism.

Mr. Stone acknowledged in his speech he has engaged in “dirty tricks” but characterized them as part of politics.

A friend of Donald Trump since they met when Mr. Stone was working for Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, he previously assisted Mr. Trump when the businessman considered running for president in 2000 and 2012.

Frustration with President Obama’s eight-year tenure led to the election of an outsider with no previous experience holding office, he said.

President Trump’s campaign was a “hostile takeover of the Republican Party, but a takeover, in my view, for the good,” he told the audience.

The White House will grow the economy by reducing regulations and cutting taxes, producing the greatest job boom in history, Mr. Stone promised.

A subscriber to the “deep state” theory, Mr. Stone said the administration is being undermined by career bureaucrats, many of whom were appointed by President Obama.

He also took a few shots at the liberal media and claimed InfoWars, the site run by conspiracy-theorist Alex Jones, is more trustworthy than media outlets like CNN.

Mr. Stone received frequent applause Friday, with the crowd especially enthusiastic when he blasted the Clintons.

Despite his long-standing ties to the GOP, Mr. Stone said he grew disillusioned with the party at one point, a result of policies that led to “endless foreign war, erosion of our civil liberties, massive debt and spending, an immigration system that is broken.”

In that respect, he fits alongside President Trump, who promised a break from the ordinary and a new type of politics.

Now 99 days into his tenure as the nation’s chief executive, President Trump has had a mixed start to his administration. His approval ratings are historically low for a new president, and he has admitted governing is harder than he expected.

Nonetheless, Mr. Stone believes it has been a successful start, with many more victories to come.

“The times are changing,” he noted.

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