BLUFFTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – Donald Trump is not here to make friends.
Last month, the presidential candidate called Hillary Clinton “pathetic.” Last weekend, he suggested Sen. John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he’d been a prisoner of war. And on Tuesday, Trump read aloud a Republican rival’s cell phone number – twice – during a campaign speech in South Carolina.
While Trump touched on policy proposals and current affairs, he spent most of his Tuesday speech in the early-voting state boasting about himself and attacking fellow Republicans. He repeatedly attacked Sen. Lindsay Graham, the state’s longtime Republican senator who called Trump a “jackass” on Monday, as an “idiot” who “doesn’t seem too bright.”
“You have this guy Lindsey Graham, a total light weight. Here’s a guy – in the private sector, he couldn’t get a job, believe me, couldn’t get a job,” Trump said, later reading aloud Graham’s phone number to the crowd and encouraging audience members to call it, which they did. (One attendee reported back to Trump that Graham did not pick up. His voicemail is now full.)
“Donald Trump continues to show hourly that he is ill-prepared to be commander in chief. The two people most excited about Donald Trump’s candidacy are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton,” Graham campaign manager Christian Ferry said in a statement.
Trump’s remarks signal that the bombastic reality television star isn’t going to shy away from the personal attacks that got him in trouble over the weekend. In Iowa, Trump was widely criticized for saying Sen. John McCain wasn’t a war hero (and then later that, yes, perhaps he actually was, and as the criticism grew, yes, he’s clearly a hero).
Trump also attacked Texas Sen. Rick Perry, who called for Trump’s resignation in the wake of the McCain remarks.
“I see Rick Perry the other day, and he’s so, you know, he’s doing very poorly in the polls,” Trump said. “He put glasses on so people will think he’s smart. It just doesn’t work! You know people can see through the glasses!”
Trump’s speech interspersed occasional policy proposals – build a wall on the southern border! – with lengthy discussions of his wealth (his $10 billion wealth statement was a “conservative” estimate), his past successes (“’Art of the Deal’ is about the best business book of all time”) and the ways he thinks he can be the best president ever (“Build military so strong they’ll say we’ll never mess with that country!”).
The speech was well received by the crowd of senior citizens from Sun City who lined up as early as 7:15 a.m. despite the 95+ degree heat this morning. Several hundred attendees filled the main auditorium where Trump spoke, and a Trump staffer said hundreds more watched a livestream in a spillover room.
Attendees cheered for Trump’s colorful remarks and criticism of Graham. Upon leaving the speech, many said they would definitely consider voting for Trump.
In terms of policy proposals, Trump spoke mostly about national security and foreign trade deals.
“Our people don’t have a clue, we give state dinners to the heads of China. I say, why are you doing state dinners for them, they’re ripping us left and right, just take ‘em to McDonald’s and go back to the negotiating table,” Trump said. “Seriously, it’s true.”
He painted himself as a trendsetter who was forcing a national conversation that did not exist before he announced his bid for president.
“In terms of setting the standard and setting the force, it would not even be discussed right now, folks,” Trump said of immigration.
Nearly all the attendees interviewed by msnbc said they were considering voting for Trump, but the candidate’s celebrity and colorful candid remarks were an obvious draw.
“No ticket for the circus, I live five minutes away, what else am I going to do being retired on a day like today?” Charlie Carney said while waiting in line to enter.