Republican rivals are dismissing Donald Trump’s momentum as a media charade — all while working to find firmer footing against the reality television star who is beating them in their own primary.
“When I’m out there talking to folks, nobody in the real world asks me about this. Nobody. But every time I get on a media show, all anybody ever wants to talk about is Donald Trump,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told “Fox & Friends” on Monday. Though Christie appeared to write off “The Donald,” the real estate mogul continues to out-poll him by double digits, according to a Monmouth University report released Monday.
Fellow Republican candidate Carly Fiorina pushed the same point. “I have been in New Hampshire now for six days. And I have not been asked a single question about Donald Trump,” she said on ABC this weekend. Trump is out-polling her by 12%.
To be sure, polling this early in the campaign cycle is heavily dependent on name recognition — something the former star of NBC’s “The Apprentice” has in spades — but the GOP can’t count Trump out just yet: In 2016’s uber-crowded field, national surveys will decide who gets on the primary debate stage.
The remarks from Christie and Fiorina however are the latest in a party-wide effort to distance Republicans from the billionaire businessman’s inflammatory views on immigration. While declaring his candidacy on June 16, he decried Mexican immigrants as criminals and “rapists” who are streaming across the U.S.’s southern border.
It’s exactly the kind of anti-immigrant rhetoric the GOP vowed to avoid after the 2012 election, and many Republicans appear acutely aware of how Trump is affecting their party.
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Florida senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio told Fox News that Trump’s comments “distract from the very serious debate on hand” on immigration and Republican front-runner Jeb Bush said Trump’s views don’t represent the GOP, while others have condemned Trump’s immigration remarks as offensive. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus reportedly told Trump to “tone it down” during a phone call last week. (Trump contests this characterization of the call.)
Still, Trump’s offensive remarks about Mexicans — and his insistence on standing by his comments — have dominated the news cycle. This weekend, Trump drew thousands to a rally in Arizona and campaigned with the notoriously anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County.
“The silent majority is back, and we’re going to take the country back,” Trump bellowed to a raucous crowd.