NASHVILLE, Tenn. – He’s hired.
Donald Trump handily won the straw poll at the National Federal of Republican Assemblies event in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday, becoming both the first and second top pick among conservatives here after delivering another boisterous speech.
“Normally I wouldn’t say this, but I need your frickin’ votes!” he exclaimed at another point.“I don’t want it to be about me. This is about common sense,” Trump said, even as he extolled his surging numbers.
A few hours after addressing a cheering crowd of about 800, Trump was declared the first choice Republican presidential candidate with 52% of the vote, as well as the top pick for attendees’ second choice, with 26%. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson were the second and third choices, respectively, in the NFRA straw poll for first and second-choice candidates.
While straw polls are not known for their scientific specificity or methodology, Saturday’s result is just the latest in a series of successes at the polls for Trump, who on Saturday called his candidacy “a movement” and his supporters “a silent majority.”
“The Republican party has been treating me very, very fairly,” Trump told reporters after his speech Saturday, responding to a question about whether the billionaire businessman would mount a third party run if he fails to secure the Republican nomination. “In terms of victory, that would certainly be the best path to victory and we’re going to make a decision very soon, and I think a lot of people are going to be very happy.”
States like South Carolina, where Trump attended an event on Thursday, mandate that Republican candidates sign pledges to support the eventual GOP nominee when the file for the state’s primary. In Greenville, S.C., Trump told media, “we’ll we have plenty of time to think about it.”
But while he demurred on questions of an independent candidacy, he was forceful when it came to defending comments he made Friday about one of Hillary Clinton’s top aides, Huma Abedin.
“I think it’s a very dangerous thing when she is the receiver of so much of this very important information and she’s married to guy that obviously is psychologically disturbed,” Trump said, doubling down on previous remarks about Abedin’s husband, sex scandal-plagued former Congressman Anthony Weiner.
“So how can she be married to this guy who’s got these major problems? She’s getting her most important information, it could be, in the world. Who knows what he’s going to do with it?” he continued. “What she did is a very dangerous thing for this country, and probably it’s a criminal act.”
Trump had warmer words for fellow Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, whose once-low polling puts her in danger of being excluded from an upcoming CNN debate despite surging support.
“I think it’s a shame that Carly is not on stage because from time of the last debate till now, she’s doing better than some of the people that are on stage,” he said. “In fairness, I would like to see Carly on stage over some of the people that really have not done as well during this shorter period of time.”