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BET founder talks ‘double effect,’ says no Democrat candidate is capable of defeating Trump in 2020

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BET Founder Bob Johnson believes the 2020 presidential election is President Trump’s to lose and there aren’t any Democratic contenders who can successfully challenge him.

The founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies told CNBC‘s Hadley Gamble that none of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are “capable of beating” Trump in the race, contending that none of the president’s current rivals appear to be “enough in the center.”

(Video: YouTube/CNBC)

“I think the president has always been in a position where it’s his to lose based on his bringing a sort of disruptive force into what would be called political norms,” Johnson, a self-described longtime Democrat, said.

“I don’t care if it’s the way he conducts foreign policy, the way he takes on government agencies, and the way he deals with immigration, he brings his style. Now, a lot of people, particularly people who voted for him and those who will vote for him in the next election, like that style,” he added. “I think what the Democrats have to do is to be careful not get caught up in stylistic-Trump and more in substantive-Trump.”

The 73-year-old billionaire, who has praised Trump before for his positive impact on the economy, doesn’t have too much faith in polling that shows strong Democratic candidates going up against the president.

“If you take a snapshot today, I don’t think that group is capable of beating Trump despite what the polls say,” Johnson said.

“I do not see anybody in the Democratic primary race today that is enough in the center where I believe most of the voters are, and particularly where most African-Americans are,” he added.

Johnson also pointed out the “double effect” of Trump’s rhetoric, which fires up his base, prompting negative comments from Democrats and the left, only to have Trump’s supporters feel as if they are being attacked.

He mused about how his praise of Trump for some of the “positive things” he has done while in the White House seemed to become a story on its own.

“If an African-American speaks up in a positive way about something good that the president is doing, that in itself is a story and not the facts,” Johnson said. “If I were to say again, ‘hey I think Trump is doing a great job’ then they’d say, ‘oh my God, a black man said this about Trump and … what’s wrong with him?'”

Johnson was then asked if his praise of the president could indicate that he would be voting for him in 2020.

“No. It means that I’m going to speak my mind, speak in an independent way based on the facts and not try to get caught up in the politics,” he said.

Speaking with CNBC in the summer, Johnson lamented the shift of the Democratic Party to the left, and his challenge in supporting them.

“The party in my opinion, for me personally, has moved too far to the left,” he said in July.

“And for that reason, I don’t have a particular candidate [I’m supporting] in the party at this time,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, if a Democrat is going to beat Trump, then that person, he or she, will have to move to the center and you can’t wait too long to do that.”

Frieda Powers


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