Bob Schieffer changes his mind on Trump: "He's a master showman"

Bob Schieffer on 2016 race, Trump as the "mas... 05:31

Former "Face the Nation" moderator and current CBS News political contributor Bob Schieffer is reassessing his opinion of GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

"I started out saying well he's a reality TV star. I've changed my definition," Schieffer said Thursday on "CBS This Morning." "He's a master showman who has this impeccable timing and this ability to sort of control the conversation."

The veteran Washington correspondent went on to explain that Trump's popularity in the White House race reflects a real-life example of the "dead cat theory" of campaigns, posited by Australian political consultant Lynton Crosby.

"[Crosby] said, look, it doesn't make any difference what people are talking about; if you draw a dead cat on the table, they're gonna start talking about the dead cat," Schieffer said. "And this is what Donald Trump has been able to do. The conversation goes off into some conversation, and then he throws one of these things out on the table and suddenly everybody is talking about that."

The billionaire businessman, Schieffer said, has always been someone to take seriously, particularly because of deep populist frustrations with Washington elites.

"The government does nothing. The city Ronald Reagan called the 'shining city on the hill' has become the town where nothing works, and people are fed up with it," he said. "And along comes Donald Trump who says the things that a lot of people wish they had the nerve to say to their boss."

There are some aspects of Trump's campaign, however, that the former "Face the Nation" moderator could not have predicted -- including the candidate's comeback from various contentious comments he's made on the trail.

Donald Trump won't call John McCain a war her... 02:57

"I'll tell you what I missed," Schieffer lamented. "From when he would say some of these things, I thought, 'Well, that does it. Nobody's gonna get by with that.' Nobody's gonna call John McCain a 'loser' because he was captured....But somehow or another, he manages to say these things and then go on to other things."

Of the Democratic primary, Schieffer predicts that Clinton will eventually clinch the nomination -- but the race is still far from certain.

"This is unbelievable really, when you come right down to it," he said. "Here you have the Democratic party, the oldest party, it's been around for a long, long time, and yet it has managed to come up with one legitimate candidate--Hillary Clinton, like her, love her, she is a legitimate candidate. But there was no other Democratic candidate."

And then, Schieffer said, "along comes a guy who is a confessed socialist, says he's a socialist, says he is not a capitalist in a country built on free enterprise."

The fact that Sanders is doing well "shows you that this frustration people are feeling - it's being felt on the left as far as the right."