Trump's hints about his favorite president tell us everything about his signature campaign theme

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Dwight D. Eisenhower Biography: Military General and U.S. President

Donald Trump has dropped a number of hints about his favorite US president, and it says a lot about what he means by his campaign slogan "make America great again."

Although Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for presidents such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan — all must-names for preferred presidents as a Republican candidate — it's his inclusion of a fourth name that helps clear up any debate over his favorite: Dwight Eisenhower.

Trump professed his admiration for Eisenhower in a Reddit AMA last month when he was asked about his favorite president — making sure to name Washington, Lincoln, and Reagan as well.

Eisenhower, who served as supreme allied commander in Europe during World War II, was the last president to have been voted to the presidency without holding prior elected office, a streak Trump is attempting to break. Only four presidents have ever held the position without holding prior elected office, and the other three — Herbert Hoover, Ulysses S. Grant, and Zachary Taylor — all did so long before Trump was born.

See Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the campaign trail:

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Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the campaign trail since the RNC
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Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the campaign trail since the RNC
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives for a rally at Duplin County Events Center in Kenansville, North Carolina on September 20, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ESTERO, FL - SEPTEMBER 19: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Germain Arena on September 19, 2016 in Estero, Florida. Trump is locked in a tight race against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in Florida as the November 8th election nears. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the JetCenters of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Colorado on September 17, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0534 -- Pictured: (l-r) Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on September 15, 2016 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Bethel United Methedoist Church on September 14, 2016 in Flint, Michigan. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 13: U.S. Republican vice presidental nominee Gov. Mike Pence addresses a news conference with House GOP leaders following a conference at Republican headquaters on Capitol Hill September 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. When asked about former vice presidential candidate Speaker Paul Ryan's reluctance to endorse presidential candidate Donald Trump, Pence said that the House Republicans and the campaign agree on a plan for America. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, greets attendees after speaking at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Any path Trump might take to the presidency inevitably leads through the Rust Belt and industrial Midwest the places the Republican nominee describes as 'rusting and rotting' war zones of manufacturing decline. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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AKRON, OH - AUGUST 22: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters at the James A. Rhodes Arena on August 22, 2016 in Akron, Ohio. Trump currently trails Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Ohio, a state which is critical to his election bid. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
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US Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters at the Summit Sports and Ice Complex on August 19, 2016 in Diamondale, Michigan. / AFP / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, pauses while speaking during a campaign rally at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Two days after Trump said that President Barack Obama had founded Islamic State, and a day after he insisted that he meant what he said, the Republican presidential nominee reversed himself on Friday and claimed the statement was nothing more than sarcasm. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, speaks during a campaign rally at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Two days after Trump said that President Barack Obama had founded Islamic State, and a day after he insisted that he meant what he said, the Republican presidential nominee reversed himself on Friday and claimed the statement was nothing more than sarcasm. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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WILMINGTON, NC - AUGUST 9: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with supporters during a campaign event at Trask Coliseum on August 9, 2016 in Wilmington, North Carolina. This was TrumpÃs first visit to Southeastern North Carolina since he entered the presidential race. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, is seen on a monitor speaking during an event to discuss his economic plans at the Detroit Economic Club in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. Trump is promising the biggest overhaul to the personal income-tax code since Ronald Reagan, as well as a deep cut in the corporate tax rate. He's also pledging to end excessive regulation and lift restrictions on the nation's energy producers. Photographer: Sean Proctor/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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DORAL, FL - JULY 27: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a press conference at Trump National Doral on July 27, 2016 in Doral, Florida. Trump spoke about the Democratic Convention and called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, waves to the crowd after addressing the 117th annual VFW National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 26: Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks on at the 117th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States as veterans strive for a photo at the Charlotte Convention Center on July 26, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. One day after Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton faced the same group, Trump promised a revision to health care for veterans. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
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With the Manhattan billionaire being born in 1946, Eisenhower would've been the president that represented Trump's most formative years, having served in office from 1953-1961. The current Republican nominee once lined up with fellow students in the late 1950s to wave at Eisenhower as he passed by in a limousine on his way to deliver the first pitch of the World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers, as reported in the recently released "Trump Revealed," which also noted that Trump, whose father was a Republican, wore "I like Ike" pins during Eisenhower's re-election year.

Dwight Eisenhower and Richard NixonAP Photo

Multiple sources told Business Insider that it's this time period, the 1950s, that Trump is really referencing when he says he will "make America great again."

"There was almost unparalleled American power and self-confidence after World War II," said Alex Keyssar, a professor of history and social policy in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, when asked about why Trump might be most drawn to the 34th president. "The 1950s is what he, in his mind, had as his normal and what we should get back to."

Eisenhower was at one-time recruited by both the Democratic and Republican parties to run for the presidency, and Keyssar called him a "quasi-consensus candidate."

"Eisenhower himself was the opposite in terms of the controversy provoking," he continued, comparing the two. "You know, he was almost bland in a lot of ways. To me, it may be less about Eisenhower per say than it is about what the 50s symbolized to him."

The real-estate magnate has intermittently tweeted about Eisenhower in recent years, cited him as the standard-bearer for earning the most votes in Republican primary history ["Dwight D. Eisenhower — great guy...I beat him,] and used a past Eisenhower plan to defend his immigration positions.

"Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower, good president, great president, people liked him," he said in a November primary debate. 'I like Ike,' right?"

"Moved 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border," he continued, speaking of the highly controversial "Operation Wetback" program [Trump's numbers weren't completely accurate]. "They came back. Moved them again beyond the border, they came back. Didn't like it. Moved them way south. They never came back."

Donald TrumpAP Photo

Trump is also promising a massive infrastructure package — double what Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will spend, he recently said, which would end up falling around $800 billion to $1 trillion. The Republican president most famous for his infrastructure program is Eisenhower, under who the interstate highway system was completed.

"He wants to go back to the 50s," Republican strategist and founder of the Potomac Strategy Group Matt Mackowiak told Business Insider. "He had something of a privileged upbringing and he did like the world as it existed when he was a kid. A lot of us are developed based on our childhood."

Mackowiak said the thought of Trump comparing himself to Eisenhower is "interesting."

"I think if you sat him down and said "tell me one thing Eisenhower did as president" he couldn't tell you," Mackowiak said. "I truly don't think that. He might say 'well, he was the supreme allied commander and he was elected president. That's probably the extent of what he can tell you. But there's no question, he might know that Eisenhower led a real eight years of peace and prosperity. And so, he may have some knowledge of that."

Mackowiak added that Trump's references to Eisenhower are likely a byproduct of Trump's want to compare himself to historical figures.

"He wants to compare himself to Eisenhower by saying he won more votes than Eisenhower did as if beating someone 60 years ago when the country's population was half or a third of what it is today is an impressive accomplishment," he said. "So he does like sort of dropping names from the past as a way to elevate his status as a peer of significant historical figures."

Related: See Trump at a recent event in Ohio:

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Trump's policy speech in Ohio
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Trump's policy speech in Ohio
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, speaks during a campaign event at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Trump's plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil includes a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants 'who we expect to flourish in our country.' Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, speaks during a campaign event at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Trump's plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil includes a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants 'who we expect to flourish in our country.' Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, waves after speaking during a campaign event at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Trump's plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil includes a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants 'who we expect to flourish in our country.' Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A campaign hat sits on a seat in the crowd before an event with Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Trump's plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil includes a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants 'who we expect to flourish in our country.' Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee wears a hat reading 'Freedom Is Never Free - Pray For Our Troops' before a campaign event with Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Trump's plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil includes a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants 'who we expect to flourish in our country.' Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, left, shakes hands with Mike Pence, 2016 Republican vice presidential nominee, during a campaign event at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Trump's plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil includes a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants 'who we expect to flourish in our country.' Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee wears a hat reading 'Make America Great Again' before a campaign event with Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Trump's plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil includes a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants 'who we expect to flourish in our country.' Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, speaks during a campaign event with Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, not pictured, at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Trump's plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil includes a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants 'who we expect to flourish in our country.' Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Mike Pence, 2016 Republican vice presidential nominee, speaks during a campaign event with Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, not pictured, at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Trump's plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil includes a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants 'who we expect to flourish in our country.' Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee wears a 'Hillary for Prison' shirt while standing for a photograph before a campaign event with Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Trump's plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil includes a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants 'who we expect to flourish in our country.' Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee wears a campaign button before an event with Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Trump's plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil includes a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants 'who we expect to flourish in our country.' Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A woman wears a 'Republican Lady' shirt before a campaign event with Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Trump's plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil includes a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants 'who we expect to flourish in our country.' Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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