“If you take a snapshot today, I don’t think that group is capable of beating Donald Trump, despite what the polls say,” Johnson told CNBC in an interview.
Despite his politics, Johnson has praised the Trump economy, particularly a rise in African American employment, though it remains lower than white employment rates.
And he has sided with many conservatives, including Trump, in saying Democratic politicians have moved too far left.
He told CNBC he sees a “double effect” of Trump’s incendiary comments and rhetoric that fires up his base. Democrats react strongly, he said, which puts the president’s supporters on defense and adds to his support.
“I do not see anybody in the Democratic primary race today that is enough in the center where I believe most of the voters are, and particularly where most African Americans are,” Johnson told CNBC.
Johnson sold Black Entertainment Television to Viacom in 2001 and later founded asset management firm RLJ Companies.
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His wealth has drawn criticism from activists who say Johnson is out of touch with many African Americans when it comes to their access to wealth and opportunity.
“Bob Johnson is not working class. He does not reflect the issue, nor does he even seem like he has the ability to speak to the issues of the working class,” LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, an organization focused on increasing black voter turnout, told The Washington Post’s Eugene Scott in July.
Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of the BlackPAC, a group working to increase black Americans’ political engagement, told Scott that policies proposed by the current field are aligned with black constituents.
“So while Mr. Johnson may share the interests of millionaires and billionaires, he’s out of step with black voters,” she said.
Trump has sought Johnson’s counsel on engaging with black voters, Johnson said after the 2016 election.
Johnson said Trump hinted at a possible Cabinet position, but Johnson shut down the discussion, telling CNBC then it wasn’t for him.
“As an entrepreneur trying to work in a government structure where you got to go through 15 different layers of decision-making to get what you want done doesn’t fit my mold,” he said.