Newsmax head downplays Breitbart, but is high on Trump's future

Chris Ruddy, CEO of the conservative Newsmax Media, is a President Trump chum whose allegiance is a function of ideological sympathy and Palm Beach proximity: He joined Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club for a mere $125,000 a decade ago.

But don't lump him and Newsmax in with a constellation of other right-leaning outlets, he said Wednesday, especially when it comes to Breitbart News, one of the hotter players in that firmament.

As for Breitbart, which is increasingly on the radar screen of mainstream press and political analysts, Ruddy diplomatically chided it as "a political machine" that represents a nativist "fraction within the conservative movement."

The media, he said, "overstates its influence."

Ruddy spoke at the start of a two-day "Washington Ideas" forum sponsored by The Atlantic and Aspen Institute.

He's been a Trump friend for years, long before the real estate mogul entertained notions of running for the presidency. They speak regularly these days, too.

The Atlantic's Steve Clemons chatted with him at the gathering Wednesay morning and conceded that his own scrutiny of Newsmax revealed it to be more even-handed than he had assumed.

He understatedly drew Ruddy out on a range of topics, including what he deems press misunderstanding of a pragmatist going through what Ruddy says is a rocky period that will be a transition to legislative and political triumphs.

But there are caricatures that are on the mark, Ruddy admitted. For example, Trump is "obsessed" with polls and disdains no shortage of Republicans, notably House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R-WI).

 "He used to be obsessed with them," Clemons said initially, quickly prompting confirmation from the interviewee that nothing has changed.

"He's very obsessed with poll numbers," said Ruddy. For sure, it's a reality that probably leaves the president in sync with 95 percent of elected officials in Washington (presuming there might be 5 percent who are not similarly mindful).

As for Ryan, Ruddy left not a scintilla of a doubt that relations are not good, especially given what Trump feels is the "bad bill of goods" that "Ryan delivered" on immigration, among other matters. 

"Ryan's been basically in the dog house," Ruddy said. And there are "a lot of the congressional Republicans he's not so happy with."

As for why Trump "isn't winning more," as Clemons phrased another inquiry, Ruddy argued that legislative victories will come, his slight uptick in approval ratings is notable and that his current "rocky times" are akin to similar ones faced by others, citing the tenures of Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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