U.S. Sen. Tim Scott sees Donald Trump as many of his supporters do – the 2016 presidential campaign’s plain-spoken, opinionated candidate.
“It’s hard to misunderstand what he’s saying,” the North Charleston Republican said of the GOP front-runner Wednesday. “He speaks from the heart and, sometimes, it’s a tad bit abrasive. But it seems to resonate with a lot of folks.”
Scott, a popular senator from an early-primary state, has not endorsed a candidate in the 2016 race. But Trump continues to hold the bulk of support in South Carolina, nearly filling the 2,000-seat Koger Center in Columbia on Wednesday for one of the Scott’s presidential candidate town halls.
Those who attended came to hear the New York business mogul talk about issues. But, mostly, they got the wise-cracking one-liners and broad promises that Trump has pitched on the campaign trail since joining the GOP race this summer.
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Politicians running the country, with the exception of his host for the evening, are “very stupid people,” Trump said. U.S. officials who negotiated the Iran nuclear deal are “clowns.” GOP rival Marco Rubio, a U.S. senator from Florida, is a “lightweight.”
Criticized for not offering details on his foreign policy positions, Trump said he did want give away his plans because he did not want enemies to hear them before he took office.
However, Trump touted his Ivy League education as giving him the credentials to come up with a national security plan and complained the Obama administration hurts its efforts to stop terrorists by announcing its plans.
“And they drone somebody, and they knock out a middle-level accounting person. Then, they have a news conference,” Trump said. “Now, everyone else runs for cover. You don’t want to talk about it. You want knock out 100 of them before you start talking.”
As for a plan, Trump offered simply, “I believe we’re going to have a military so strong no one is going to mess with us.”
Trump’s broad policy strokes received applause from the crowd, including his suggestions to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Education.
Later, he added, offering no specifics, “I will be the greatest jobs president God ever created.”
Trump is expected to unveil his economic plan soon.
What Trump has been doing is working so far. He held a 15-percentage-point lead over retired Maryland neurosurgeon Ben Carson in the most recent S.C. polls, according to Real Clear Politics.
And, Wednesday, Trump continued to guarantee he would win the White House in 2016 after two failed GOP attempts to beat President Barack Obama.
He said he thinks he can earn enough votes from African-Americans and Hispanics, despite his comments about some Mexican immigrants being criminals. Earlier Wednesday, Trump reached out to minorities by speaking at an annual conference of African-American business leaders in North Charleston.
Speaking in Columbia, Trump said Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney choked away the 2012 presidential election against Democrat Obama, comparing the Republican to a golfer missing a putt. GOP nominee John McCain had no chance in the 2008 presidential race against the nation’s first African-American major-party nominee, he said.
“Abraham Lincoln, maybe, couldn’t have been elected,” Trump said.
Fiorina: Media fixated on Trump
While visiting Columbia earlier Wednesday, Trump rival Carly Fiorina said the media has a fixation with the one-time reality TV star.
The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive rose to second in a CNN Republican presidential poll after a nationally televised debate last week, in part, because of her response to an attack from Trump about her appearance.
“Donald Trump is, apparently, very entertaining to a lot of people,” Fiorina said Wednesday. “But most voters actually know that these are serious times with serious issues, and they want to talk about the things that matter to them. Donald Trump is going to do what Donald Trump is going to do. And I’m going to do what I’m going to do, and I’m rising in the polls.”
Trump responded by saying that Fiorina still remains far behind him in polls and discounting her record heading the computer giant, a tenure that included thousands of layoffs.
“She is a nice woman. I really don’t know her very well,” Trump told reporters before Scott’s town-hall meeting. “I do think she has had a terrible history with Hewlett-Packard, and I think that’s going to be very hard to overcome.”
Still, Fiorina is attracting attention on the campaign trail.
She spoke Wednesday to several hundred people gathered at Hudson’s Smokehouse BBQ in Lexington before registering for the primary at the S.C. GOP headquarters in Columbia.
Not everyone attending was on board with Fiorina – cars in the parking lot had stickers for GOP rivals Rubio, Carson and Jeb Bush.
But she has earned enough respect to draw S.C. Republican politicians to Lexington, including U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of Springdale, state Sen. Katrina Shealy of Lexington and S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman of Saluda County.
Sally Atwater, the widow of famed S.C. political operative Lee Atwater, also came to hear Fiorina despite her support of Bush.
“I’m a woman always looking at women who are running,” said Atwater, who unsuccessfully ran for the GOP nomination for education superintendent last year. “She’s done great in the debates.”
Atwater also teased Fiorina could make a good running mate for Bush.
Fiorina told the crowd at Hudson’s that she backs zero-based budgeting, wants to overhaul the tax code, favors reforming immigration laws and does not favor raising the minimum wage.
As she did at last week’s debate, Fiorina also talked about how her life experiences would make her a strong president.
“I have battled cancer. I have buried a child. I am tested and will not falter in this fight.”
Trump and Fiorina both registered for the S.C. primary Wednesday.
Trump, Fiorina file for SC primary
GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina – second in one recent national poll – filed Wednesday for the S.C. primary.
Fiorina visited S.C. GOP headquarters to file. In a surprise to GOP officials, Trump held up an application and $40,000 check to cover his registration fee at a news conference in Columbia.
The two filings bring to 11 the number of Republican hopefuls in the S.C. race. The remaining four GOP candidates have until next Wednesday to enter the South’s first presidential primary.
S.C GOP chairman Matt Moore said he expects Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to apply before the deadline. It remains unclear if former Govs. George Pataki of New York and Jim Gilmore of Virginia, who both are lagging in polls, will sign up.
Off the air: Trump boycotts Fox News over campaign coverage
Donald Trump says he’s done appearing on Fox News shows for the “foreseeable future” because he doesn’t like the network’s coverage of his presidential campaign.
The billionaire businessman and leading Republican candidate tweeted that Fox News has been treating him “very unfairly” and he’s going to stop appearing on its shows.
A Fox News spokeswoman says that Trump announced his boycott after the channel canceled a scheduled Trump appearance on “The O'Reilly Factor” Thursday.
In a statement, she said when coverage doesn’t go Trump’s way, he engages in personal attacks on Fox anchors and hosts. She added the behavior has “grown stale and tiresome.”
Trump has been feuding with the network since the first GOP primary debate, when he objected to the moderators’ questions.