Most presidential candidates in both parties are focusing their attention on early nominating states like Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s common sense – how would-be presidents perform early on will have a meaningful impact on the rest of the race.
Donald Trump, enjoying an unexpected surge in popularity among far-right Republicans, nevertheless headlined an interesting event over the weekend in, of all places, Arizona – a state that holds its primary nearly two months after the Iowa caucuses. In fact, a total of 24 states – nearly half the country – will host a presidential primary or caucus before the Grand Canyon State.
So what was Trump doing there? As msnbc’s Amanda Sakuma reported, the candidate basing much of his campaign on racially charged rhetoric received a warm welcome from GOP audiences in a state with a troubled history on immigration.
In his first major campaign swing since announcing his candidacy last month, Trump completed a two-day tour Saturday that featured a series of at times rambling speeches, jumping from topic to topic while nonetheless energizing rancorous crowds as large as any of his rivals have attracted. Lines of people wrapped around the block as Trump began to deliver his remarks here Saturday afternoon, his campaign estimating that as many as 10,000 people had registered to see him speak.“The silent majority is back, and we’re going to take the country back,” Trump bellowed after the crowd erupted into chants, “USA! USA! USA!”
It’s not a coincidence that the gathering was organized by the Republican Party of Maricopa County, home to right-wing activist Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who sang Trump’s praises on Saturday.
Note, Trump was scheduled to speak in a smaller venue, but interest in the event was significant enough to relocate to a larger facility.
Audiences heard a 70-minute address that sounded “more like a stream-of-consciousness rant than a presidential-style stump speech,” and which made clear that Trump remains unimpressed with his rivals for the Republican nomination – especially Jeb Bush. “How can I be tied with this guy?” he said of the former Florida governor. “He’s terrible.”
Trump also reassured local voters, “I’m, like, a really smart person.” Good to know.
But as expected, Trump directed the bulk of his ire at Mexican immigrants.
“I love the Mexican people … I respect Mexico … but the problem we have is that their leaders are much sharper, smarter and more cunning than our leaders, and they’re killing us at the border,” Trump said, adding, “They’re taking our jobs. They’re taking our manufacturing jobs. They’re taking our money. They’re killing us.” Trump went on to say, facts be damned, that undocumented immigrants “flow in like water.”
If the Republican National Committee hoped pressuring Trump might lead him to dial it down a notch, party officials were likely disappointed.
Indeed, perhaps the most striking Trump quotes over the weekend came after his Arizona remarks, when he sat down with the Washington Post’s Robert Costa on the candidate’s plane.
In an expletive-laden interview over soft drinks … the celebrity contender said he has no plans to change the way he’s running for the Republican nomination, which combines his trademark showmanship, an outsider-populist credo that resists ideological categorization and incendiary comments that have thrilled conservative activists.Trump was most animated when analyzing the way the news media covered him and dishing with aides about the articles they had printed out. He was less excited discussing the process of presidential politics. When asked about the coming debate, set for Aug. 6 in Cleveland, he shrugged and said, “Whatever.” When asked about calls for him to tone down his fiery pitch, he shrugged again.
You’ll have to read the full interview to appreciate Trump’s unique approach, though I’d note that the candidate said he’d filed his financial disclosure forms with the Federal Election Commission “this week,” thus guaranteeing his eligibility for the upcoming Fox News debate in Ohio.
And asked about his use of the phrase “silent majority” – a line made famous by Richard Nixon during his 1968 campaign – Trump replied, “Nobody remembers that.”