Most of Donald Trump's Political Money Went To Democrats — Until 5 Years Ago

"Well, if I ever ran for office, I'd do better as a Democrat than as a Republican," Donald Trump told Playboy in 1990. "And that's not because I'd be more liberal, because I'm conservative. But the working guy would elect me. He likes me."

It turns out that even The Donald can't predict the future — after all, 25 years after that comment, he's mounting a strong early push for the Republican presidential nomination. And while he framed himself as a conservative back then, his sympathies and political views have been all over the map during the last 25 years. Only in the last few years has he seemed to find some cohesive ground in what he thinks and whom he supports.

His political donations provide an objective look at just how big this change has been: since 1989, donations in Donald Trump's name have totaled around $1.4 million (adjusted for inflation) to national-level parties, candidates, and other committees. Around two-thirds of that has gone to Republican groups and candidates, according to an NPR analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics. However, Trump's decisive tilt toward giving to Republicans has only come in the last few years.

So why haven't voters punished Trump for this? How is the man leading in several GOP polls also among the least consistent conservatives in the race?

But for now, that's tough to do, because Trump's strategy is to spit out provocative statements, rapid-fire, whipping his supporters into a frenzy, said another GOP strategist.

"What he does is he takes page six tabloid tactics to presidential politics and not only do his opponents not know what to do with him; neither does the media," said Ford O'Connell.

O'Connell pointed to Trump's claim that veterans are being treated worse than illegal immigrants — a comparison that O'Connell said is not completely logical but manages to link together two things that infuriate some voters.

"What he does is he throws that word salad out there, and the voter goes gaga," O'Connell adds. "And before you can even break that down for the reader or the news anchor, he then moves on to something else. He's such a whirling dervish of stuff that you just don't know which way to go."

Amid that word salad that O'Connell is talking about, Trump has found time to shrug off criticisms of his past donations, defending them as a business necessity: "I am a businessman," Trump told conservative talk radio host Howie Carr recently, as reported by Buzzfeed. "And when, you know, a speaker of the House or head of the Senate or, you know, people call, you know, I generally speak. As a businessman, you wanna be friendly with everybody."

Read more from Danielle Kurtzleben at NPR

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