Colbert: Trump is "my old character with $10 billion"

In some ways, Stephen Colbert might argue that Donald Trump would have him out of business when he launched his campaign for president.

"I'm not the first person to say this, but I completely agree that he's my old character with $10 billion," Colbert told "Face the Nation" moderator John Dickerson in an interview that aired Sunday. He was referring to the conservative caricature he used to play on his show, "The Colbert Report," before taking over as the host of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."

"One of the reasons why you can't do that old character anymore (is) because he's doing it better than I ever could. Because he's willing to drink his own Kool- Aid. And manufacture and distribute it," Colbert explained. "If money is speech, he's got a $10 billion mouth and doesn't have to spend any of it because everyone will point a camera at him."

Colbert said he "really didn't think [Trump] would be doing this well" in his presidential campaign - putting him on equal footing with nearly every political pundit in America. As far as a theory of this election goes, he said, "all bets are off."

Even if his predictions were wrong, he does have an opinion on why Trump has done so well in the 2016 Republican primary.

"There's a populism to Trump that I find very appealing," he said. "I may disagree with anything that he's saying and think that his proposals are a little...well more than a little shocking. But there is something really hopeful about the fact that, well 36 percent of the likely voters want him so the people in the machine don't get to say otherwise."

"That's the one saving grace, I think, of his candidacy," he added.

He said he respects Trump for "knowing who the real audience" is. He also argued that political parties have been completely "defanged" by super PACs and their large cash inflow.

Another reason Colbert said he wound down his nightly half-hour skewering of politicians and the media is because he didn't think that was what the public wanted anymore.

"I think people don't really want constant divisiveness," he said. "I really don't think they want that. And that's where I was aping. And I thought, 'Ah, I can't really drink that cup anymore. Cause I don't think people really want to hear it.'"

He said that he respects people who are politically engaged, because so few are - and he respects the decisions they make about which candidate to support.

"But boy, it would be lovely if we all could have a conversation that does not involve demonizing the other side," he said. "I think that's worth doing. I don't know if it's my job, but I would say that's certainly an objective of mine."

As for the large field of Republicans competing for the nomination, Colbert said he's starting to worry about them.

"Most of them we know are just going to fall by the wayside - if not literally with an arrow in their chest but certainly massive, you know, campaign debt," he said. "God knows what's gonna happen to George Pataki. Is he going to be swept into the turbines of this election? Or tossed over to a railing into a pitfall of piranhas? Something bad is going to happen to all the lower tier candidates, and I started feeling bad about how excited I was about each of them dropping out."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.