Of all the media outlets to treat Donald Trump badly in recent months, the New York businessman said Wednesday, Fox News has been the worst.
Not that it matters.
At a Sun City Hilton Head forum, the Republican frontrunner said that despite the media’s negativity, public support has never been higher, with “unbelievable” poll numbers ahead of primaries in South Carolina and Nevada and a “landslide win” in New Hampshire last week.
Trump held a commanding lead in a CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday, with 38 percent of the survey’s respondents favoring him in South Carolina.
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Wednesday’s forum was hosted by S.C. Rep. Bill Herbkersman.
Herbkersman said that while Trump may not be in the pockets of special interests, he has at least one local who’s interested in his candidacy.
“Full disclosure, my wife sent you a check for 25 bucks,” Herbkersman told him.
At Sun City, Trump:
1. Slammed Ted Cruz
Trump continued his crusade against Cruz, who Trump has railed against in recent weeks for “stealing” the Iowa caucus.
Early in his speech, Trump said there was “a lot of dishonesty in politics,” a thinly-veiled shot at Cruz. He followed by saying he could continue to take Cruz to task for lying. He said fellow Republican hopeful Marco Rubio also had recently criticized Cruz for the same thing.
Responding to a question on whether he was pro-life, Trump quickly answered “yes” before taking more shots at the Texas senator.
“I’ve never dealt with someone who’s lied so much,” Trump said. “What he did to (Ben) Carson in Iowa was disgraceful.”
I’ve never dealt with someone who’s lied so much. What he did to Carson in Iowa was disgraceful.
2. Talked military and ISIS
The majority of Trump’s questions focused on the military and how to handle ISIS and the Middle East. Trump said early in his speech he would “knock the hell out of ISIS” and build back up the military, who have been “absolutely decimated” in recent years.
Rebuilding the military is “the cheapest thing we can do,” a preventative measure to stop the spread of terrorism.
Trump continued to assert that the Iraq War was a mistake, saying he should get credit for the “vision” that the U.S. should not have gone there and calling it one of the “biggest mistakes in American history.”
Although Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was a “bad guy,” he was good at killing terrorists, Trump said.
“Now it’s Harvard for terrorists,” he said. “...We could have rebuilt our country with that money.”
Now it’s Harvard for terrorists. ... We could have rebuilt our country with that money.
Trump also said he would support the use of waterboarding to extract information from prisoners — and possibly more.
“We should go much stronger,” he said.
3. Targeted Lindsey Graham — again
Trump called the senator from South Carolina a “nutjob” after seeing Graham slam Trump on FOX. His pronouncement that Graham was one of the “worst representatives in the country” drew applause from some of the audience Wednesday.
“He’s one of the dumbest human beings I’ve ever seen,” Trump said.
During his stop in Sun City in July, Trump memorably gave out Graham’s phone number after Graham repeatedly called Trump a “jackass” during an interview. Wednesday, Trump said he wouldn’t accept an endorsement from Graham if it ever came. Graham has voiced support for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in recent weeks.
Trump ended his attack on Graham by proclaiming he could “push him over with a little thimble, boom.”
4. Could beat Obama in a round of golf
The businessman wouldn’t reveal his golf handicap to the crowd, but said he could beat Obama — then chastised the president for using an aging jet to fly to Hawaii after talking about the “carbon footprint.”
Herbkersman got a dig in at the president’s expense, too, asking Trump if he could beat someone who “plays golf six times a week.” Trump boasted he had won many club championships and asked if anyone in the audience was a five-handicap or under (one man in attendance stood up). He joked he would return to Sun City for a round, under one condition.
“If I win, I’ll come back and play,” he said.
5. Still a fan favorite
The audience at Trump’s forum Wednesday was smaller than the crowds that came to see him in July, when his campaign rally required overflow seating at Pinckney Hall. Although Trump boasted 500 people were in the audience for Wednesday’s event — 500 people he said weren’t allowed in during his July stop — the group Republicans of Sun City put the figure closer to 400.
That number was on par with attendance figures during Rubio and Bush’s stops last week, but paled in comparison to John Kasich’s stop there Friday. Kasich, who has seen interest surge after a strong finish in New Hampshire, drew 900 people to an outdoor pavilion next to Magnolia Hall, his campaign staff said.
Trump had many fans in the crowd Wednesday, though, who support the businessman as a break from the political establishment.
David and Sandy Jenkins of Sun City both said they would likely vote for Trump in Saturday’s GOP Primary.
“He’s incredible in person,” Sandy Jenkins said. “I can see why people are going to vote for him. Everything he says is true.”
He’s incredible in person. I can see why people are going to vote for him. Everything he says is true.
Similarly, Sun City resident John Pierce — sporting a hat signed by Trump after the forum— said he liked Trump for his straightforward talk and “clear, precise language.”
“He’s much more refreshing than a politician,” Pierce said.
David Jenkins said Trump represented a “final hope” to stop the establishment candidates.
“For the last 30 years, it doesn’t matter if it is a Democrat or Republican, we’re going right down the same road,” he said. “The only possibility to change that is Trump. The Republicans have taken the House and the Senate in the last two elections and they haven’t done a thing.”