Elections

At Bluffton stop, Trump fires back at Lindsey Graham by giving out his cell number

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appears at Sun City Hilton Head on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appears at Sun City Hilton Head on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Jay Karr

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a presidential contender, will have a few more voicemails than usual when he checks his cellphone following Donald Trump's latest stunt Tuesday.

After Graham repeatedly called Trump a "jackass" in an interview on national television Tuesday morning, the real estate mogul and serial instigator fired back at his fellow Republican presidential candidate just a few hours later -- calling Graham a stiff and twice announcing Graham's cellphone number during first South Carolina campaign stop in Sun City Hilton Head.

Trump launched into the comedic bit about halfway through his 40-minute speech at a packed Magnolia Hall, claiming that Graham phoned him about three or four years ago.

"He goes, 'Mr. Trump, this is Sen. Lindsey Graham. I wonder if it would be possible for you to call Fox,'" Trump recalled in a mocking voice. "He wanted to know whether I could give him a good reference on Fox & Friends."

After a few more rambling jabs about Graham's dependence on campaign contributions, Trump continued his bit.

"What's this guy, a beggar? He's like begging me to help him," Trump said. "So I say, 'OK, and I'll mention your name.'

"And he gave me his number, and I (recently) found the card," Trump said, holding up a card with a phone number written on it. "I wrote the number down. I don't know if it's the right number. Let's try it."

Trump read the number twice to the audience to raucous applause and laughter.

The stunt comes as Trump is leading national Republican primary polls. Last week, a Washington Post poll found that 24 percent of Republicans and Republican leaning independents supported his candidacy.

"He's brash, he's crass and he has no filter. I like that," said Sheila Weinberg, who doesn't yet know if she'll support Trump but feels he echoes her own disdain for Washington D.C. politics. "He's not a politician. He's not stupid. He's a businessman and he'll hire the right people."

Phone calls to Graham's number shortly after Trump's announcement went to voicemail.

"Lindsey Graham is not available. The mailbox is full and cannot accept messages at this time," the recording said.

While Graham was the principal butt of Trump's jokes Tuesday, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- two of Trump's favorite recent targets -- did not escape unscathed.

"(Perry) put glasses on so people will think he's smart," Trump teased. "It just doesn't work. People can see through the glasses."

But the jabs at Graham rolled right back around just a few minutes later.

"The whole thing is, like, ridiculous," Trump continued. "He calls me a jackass this morning ... He doesn't seem like a very bright guy. He actually probably seems to me not as bright, honestly, as Rick Perry."

Graham evidently took the name-calling and cellphone announcement in good spirits, though.

"Probably getting a new phone. iPhone or Android?" read a tweet from one of his official Twitter accounts at about 3 p.m.

But Trump's meandering speech Tuesday wasn't all jabs and jokes.

Despite his recent controversial comments about U.S. Sen. John McCain's service and capture during the Vietnam War, the biggest response Trump received came after announcing that flags at all Trump properties will be flown at half-staff following the shooting deaths of five service members at a Chattanooga, Tenn. military recruiting center last week.

The announcement earned a boisterous standing ovation, started by dozens of veterans seated throughout the hall who had been honored before Trump's speech.

Trump also used the opportunity to continue insisting that he is a Washington D.C. outsider who speaks for the "silent majority" in the country.

That resonated with many visitors, who said they felt Trump's no-holds-barred style echoes their own private conversations.

"He's saying what others are afraid to say, and I like that," said Jan Burke, who has lived in Sun City for 10 years. "He's not afraid to say what others are thinking."

Follow reporter Zach Murdock on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach and on Facebook at facebook.com/IPBGZach.

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