Jeremy W. Peters, who covers politics and the media for The Times, is the author of “Insurgency: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted,” from which this article is adapted.

When Roger Ailes ran CNBC in the mid-1990s, he gave himself a talk show called “Straight Forward.” It long ago vanished into the void of canceled cable programs and never received much attention after the network boss moved on to produce more provocative and polarizing content as chairman of Fox News. But “Straight Forward” was a fascinating window into what kind of people Mr. Ailes considered stars.

Donald Trump was one of them. In late 1995, Mr. Ailes invited Mr. Trump, then a 49-year-old developer of condos and casinos, on the show and sounded a bit star-struck as he asked his guest to explain how a Manhattan multimillionaire could be so popular with blue-collar Americans.

“The guy on the street, the cabdrivers, the guys working on the road crews go, ‘Hey, Donald! How’s it going?’” Mr. Ailes observed while the two men sat in front of a wood-paneled set piece that gave the studio the appearance of an elegant den in an Upper East Side apartment. “It’s almost like they feel very comfortable with you, like you’re one of them. And I’ve never quite figured out how you bridge that.

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