How do you troll America’s biggest troll?
For Michael Wille, a former Mitt Romney campaign staffer, the opportunity came when he saw an ad on Facebook to get involved with a Donald Trump focus group led by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Wille lied and listed his first choice for the Republican nomination as Trump, out of a morbid curiosity and a desire to be mischievous.
And hey, they were willing to pay him a hundred bucks for his time.
“I was there supporting Trump, but trolling everyone at the same time,” Wille said. “I needed to see for sure exactly what the people of our party were thinking about Trump. Now I’m totally convinced there is no way we’re going to win the presidential race… [Trump supporters] are delusional… they’re so pissed off at the establishment they want to send a message no matter what.”
The three-hour focus group, featured Sunday morning on CBS’s Face the Nation and on various other news outlets, took place last week in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C.
Once inside the room with Trump’s biggest fans, Wille couldn’t keep the charade going very long. On the first question, on Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country, he can be seen vigorously shaking his head.
He spent much of the next few hours denouncing Trump’s ideas and challenging the other Trump supporters in the focus group. He argued against the Muslim ban, citing the creation of America on a desire to flee religious persecution; he defended the disabled reporter that Trump made fun of; and pushed back against the claim that “thousands” of Muslims cheered after the 9/11 attacks.
Luntz said that while the self-proclaimed interloper was “annoying,” Wille wasn’t necessarily out of place.
“He was agitating the group the entire time. You had 28 people who felt one way, but he felt completely different because his motives were different. Every time he would speak the whole group would erupt against him,” Luntz told The Daily Beast. “It’s annoying, but he actually belongs. There are people who vote tactically for political candidates as a way to send a message or to do damage… He represented a point of view of some Americans.”
In a strange way, Wille said, he now wants Trump to win the nomination. But only so that the businessman can lose by a landslide in the general election, and make an enduring point to the members of the Republican Party.
“I want him to get the nomination to get completely destroyed in the general. The older generation in my party needs to understand we can’t have this pro-war, anti-immigrant nonsense anymore… we need to lose this [election] in order to ever win again,” Wille said. “He needs to get destroyed in order for us to understand the path forward. Hillary is probably going to be the next president, and I don’t like that at all.”
Wille considers himself a libertarian and has worked at the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation. In the 2012 election cycle, he worked on Romney’s campaign in Ohio.
“We haven’t learned the lesson from that election—we’ve gone the exact opposite direction. We’re never going to win again unless we trend more libertarian,” Wille said.
Wille said he left the focus group “terrified” by the dozens of Trump supporters there who ganged up on him whenever he tried to object to The Donald’s policies. Midway through, it struck him that the GOP has no chance of winning in 2016.
“On everything Trump said, they would automatically go into defense mode,” he told The Daily Beast. “We’re definitely going to lose. The party is going to fracture—these guys are so committed to Trump, they are going to defend him no matter what.
“So let’s give him the nomination, and watch him get destroyed,” Wille concludes.