U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a campaign event in Phoenix, Ariz. on Jul. 11, 2015. 
Photo by Nancy Wiechec/Reuters

Top strategist says GOP is reaping what it sowed with Trump

The top strategist to Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign is calling out the Republican Party for not standing up to Donald Trump when it had the chance.

Steve Schmidt, who ran the day to day operations on McCain’s losing bid to Barack Obama, told “Hardball’s” Chris Matthews that Trump was given a free pass in his consistent questioning of President Obama’s birthplace.

“I said it was despicable then, it was wrong then, it undermined the legitimacy of the duly elected commander-in-chief. It was wrong and Republicans should have repudiated it,” Schmidt said. “We paid a price for it, and to some degree we are reaping what we sowed in a feckless political class that didn’t call it out.”

Trump has risen to the top of the Republican polls after a campaign launch that has veered oftentimes into viciousness, specifically targeting undocumented immigrants, the media, and campaign rivals.

WATCH MORE: Trump has double-digit lead in new poll

“This is not conservatism. This is not what the Republican Party is about. This has to be confronted,” Schmidt said. “This is opposite the virtues of goodness embodied in men like Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, and Abraham Lincoln and the giants that have sat as members of our party in the seat of the Presidency of the United States.”

On Tuesday, Trump continued his scorched earth campaign style by publicly releasing Senator Lindsey Graham’s personal cell phone number as retaliation after the South Carolina Senator called him a “jackass” on national television.

The spat comes just days after Trump questioned Senator John McCain’s status as a war hero. The remarks came after Senator McCain referred to some of Trump’s supporters as “crazies.”

Donald Trump

Top strategist says GOP is reaping what it sowed with Trump