"He's got the right personality," Bob Dole said of billionaire Donald Trump, "and he's kind of a deal-maker."
Dole was the Republicans' Senate leader in the 1990s, and was the party's presidential candidate in 1996. Dole today is a corporate lobbyist. Dole's view — that Trump is fine, but conservative Sen. Ted Cruz is unacceptable — is the standard view in the Republican parts of K Street.
Lobbyists prefer Trump to Cruz for many reasons, but the core of the issue is this: Trump will preserve the lobbyists' incomes and power, while Ted Cruz might crimp K Street's style.
"We can live with Trump," lobbyist Rick Hohlt told the New York Times.
Reagan-administration veteran Charlie Black also said Trump would be preferable. Black's arguments are electoral — that Trump is a more coachable candidate. It's also relevant that Black is a powerful lobbyist for Google, AT&T, FedEx, and others. Trump would seek advice from the party establishment, Black explained: "he would call people in the party and say, 'I just want to talk to you.' "
Thus, Trump would be in debt to the party establishment, which means he would be in debt to K Street.
"Listen, if Trump gets the nomination," tweeted lobbyist John Feehery, "I will support him. Cruz? Not so much." Feehery, a principal at K Street firm QGA, is a lobbyist for AT&T, the National Association of Broadcasters, Sony, U.S. Steel and others.
"If it came down to Trump or Cruz," former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said, "there is no question I'd vote for Trump." Giuliani is a partner in the firm Bracewell & Giuliani. His firm lobbies for Duke Energy, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.
Dole, of course, is a lobbyist at K Street giant Alston Bird. His clients include health care and gambling companies. Dole supported Obamacare in 2009, earning praise as an "elder statesman" from a credulous media that never mentioned his lobbying work — then or now.
And you haven't read the pulse of the K Street Wing of the GOP until you've asked Trent Lott, Senate Leader-turned lobbyist millionaire. Lott told political reporter Molly Ball "he'd take Trump over Cruz if he had to choose," Ball wrote on Twitter last week.
Why are all these lobbyists warm to Trump, whose campaign sounds populist notes? Part of it is just personal. Ted Cruz has a way of really getting people to hate him. His personality grates on many. His political tactics upset the party leadership. Also, it's easy to infer that his grand strategy has been to break the party in order to elevate himself.
Trump, meanwhile, is just the kind of politician a lobbyist loves. He's a dealmaker, as Dole says. You could imagine him going to the Chamber of Commerce and saying, I need to reduce the number of legal immigrants, in exchange, I'll give your members some good contracts to build a wall, and many more guest-worker visas. I'll even throw in some sweet tax credits and loan guarantees for the hospitality industry. Deal?
Trump is a consummate dealmaker because there's no line he won't cross. Nothing is off the table for a man with no core beliefs. How perfect for a lobbyist.
More importantly, Cruz is a conservative who wants to enforce limits on government and shrink its size — which is a lobbyist's nightmare. Trump believes in big government and rejects limits on what government can do.
Eminent domain for corporate gain? It's "wonderful," Trump explains. If some business can make the case that it will generate more jobs and more tax revenue per square foot than the stubborn chump (or elderly widow) currently occupying a coveted parcel, why shouldn't government come in and allocate the land more "efficiently"?
Forcing drivers to buy ethanol when they want actual gasoline! Why not? At least until after the caucuses.
Trump's most important trait to the lobbyists isn't his explicitly corporatist policies, its his idea of government. In Trump's view, there are no inherent limits on government power — it is simply, "do what you need to do." This is the perfect environment for a corporate lobbyist, because it means there is nothing you can't ask government for — and thus nothing you can't promise your clients.
Donald Trump is well versed in the art of the deal, as he will tell you. If he were dealing with taxpayer money, it would be plush times on K Street.
Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Tuesday and Thursday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.