Donald Trump talked tough on military matters during his campaign stop in Beaufort on Tuesday, to the loudest cheers of the night.
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Boasting that record crowds had packed the Beaufort High School performing arts center and spilled into overflow areas, the New York billionaire and Republican presidential candidate promised to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs and defeat the Islamic State so fast “your head would spin.”
Trump’s fellow hopeful for the Republican nomination, Marco Rubio, was also in Beaufort on Tuesday at USCB’s Center for the Arts. Polling following last week’s GOP debate in Greenville shows Trump still leads U.S. Sens. Rubio and Ted Cruz ahead of Saturday’s S.C. Republican primary.
Sitting on stage in a club chair, Trump fielded questions from former S.C. Republican Party chairman Van Hipp for about an hour.
“You’re going to be so happy,” Trump told the crowd in urging them to vote. “I’m a conservative, but I’m also a common-sense person.”
On Tuesday at Beaufort High, Trump:
Promised better treatment for veterans and to destroy ISIS
Referencing the high rate of veteran suicide and the long waits for treatments, Trump promised to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs and allow veterans to go wherever needed to receive care.
To great applause, Trump said no one has received less respect than veterans and accused President Barack Obama of doing nothing.
“We are going to make the veterans administration so good,” Trump said. “I’ve got some of the best people in the world to run it already.”
He spoke in generalities of defeating the Islamic State, saying it could have been done by now and that the war must be won online.
“They’re intimidating,” Trump said. “They are using the Internet better than us. We can’t allow that to happen.”
Poked at his rivals
These politicians are bad news, folks
Donald Trump, on competing Republican nomination seekers
After sparring with Jeb Bush during the Greenville debate over illegal immigration and the Iraq War — blaming Bush’s brother for not stopping the Sept. 11 attacks and criticizing him over the Iraq War — Trump seemed more reserved Tuesday. He instead said former president Bill Clinton could have prevented the terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade buildings.
“He had a shot, and he didn’t take the shot,” Trump said.
Trump repeated familiar refrains, calling Cruz a liar and Jeb Bush a “low-energy guy,” who will only garner a small percentage of the state’s votes. He accused Cruz of deception in winning the Iowa caucuses.
“These politicians are bad news, folks,” Trump said.
Drew a crowd
Outside Beaufort High School’s auditorium, Trump supporters and the Trump curious shielded their faces from the late afternoon sun with blue campaign signs.
Atlanta resident Keith Fulp drove from Ridegland, where he was on business for his motorsports company. He said he likes that Trump speaks his mind.
Mary Blackstone, a retiree from Bluffton, called Trump a true leader and not beholden to big donors.
Lines formed more than three hours before Trump was scheduled to speak. Jim Bradshaw carried a sign with yellow stickers counting down Obama’s days in office and another bearing a Gadsen flag with the words “Don’t tread on me.”
Bradshaw hawked the stickers for $2 apiece. The Lexington resident said the stickers are hot sellers at Trump events.
“They seem to be real patriotic people,” Bradshaw said.