Catawba's Dr. Michael Bitzer on the Trump phenomenon

Published: Jan. 8, 2016 at 6:36 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2016 at 6:36 PM EST
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SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - His first media appearance as a political expert came shortly after his arrival at Salisbury's Catawba College in 2002, but since then Dr. Michael Bitzer has become a sought after source for local and national media, especially during an election season.

Bitzer's interest in politics began when he was in high school and was able to become an intern in the office of South Carolina's iconic United States Senator Strom Thurmond.

"I went to Capitol Hill for a month and worked in the US Senate and was hooked from there," Bitzer said. "That kind of locked me into trying to understand what politics is, why people are political..."

And he says that as an astute observer of politics for the last few decades, he's never seen anything quite like the phenomenon that is the campaign of Donald Trump.

"The Republican Party has basically been taken over by emotion, anger, fear, concern, and it's just something that if you tap into it, you can run with it, and Trump by all accounts, is off and running with it," Bitzer added. "It's the emotion that folks wanted in this contest and I think he tapped into that he recognized it, and he's been rewarded by it, that's the key, is that he's been rewarded by it."

Bitzer says that he believes Trump has become a much more serious candidate since he first began his current presidential quest.

"His numbers have only gone up and held steady and I think as I've listened to him and seen the way that he has kind of run his campaign it's becoming more and more obvious to me that he is indeed becoming a very, and is a very serious candidate," Bitzer added. "He's got the organization, he's got the infrastructure in some early key states, particularly Iowa and New Hampshire, and for nothing else, his poll numbers are holding steady."

On Friday Trump was appearing in South Carolina, and Bitzer thinks that's a state that will greet the candidate warmly.

"I think you will see a very strong base of support, now the question is is it 25 is it 30 is it 35%?  What will happen as we get closer to South Carolina's first in the south primary on the Republican side, I think what we're seeing is the dynamic of the Republican Party base is truly unhappy," said Bitzer.  "They don't like where the country is headed.  They don't like the policies that are coming out of the current White House, there's a general anger and fear that I think Trump particularly, Cruz, and Ben Carson have all tapped into."

"South Carolina traditionally has been a conservative bastion, even when it was dominated by the democrats, it was southern conservative democrats," Bitzer said. "I think South Carolina is made for somebody like Trump from what I have studied and seen but these early contests are necessary about winning, it's about momentum, you win in Iowa, you win in New Hampshire, you win in South Carolina.  If you don't finish in the top three in those states it is really kind of hard to get your mojo back."

Dr. Bitzer knows that as the 2016 election cycle ramps up that he will likely be called on to offer an opinion and perspective on the events that unfold and he says that's fine with him.

"When your name shows up on TV and in print, others start to pick that up, and it's really been a kind of snowball effect, said Bitzer.  "It culminated in the 2014 election to where I was basically doing an interview a day leading up to that election for the month in advance.  It has been a fascinating experience."

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