Donald Trump pushed back against his rivals for the Republican nomination and criticism from President Barack Obama, as the real estate mogul sought to cement victory in South Carolina. Trump became yet again the focus of attacks by challengers to his frontrunner status, including his nearest adversary Ted Cruz who blasted the businessman turned reality TV star as a liberal.
Although Trump was busy scrapping with rivals, Democrat Obama joined the fray, offering a scathing assessment of why he thinks the American people will not elect Trump.
“I continue to believe that Mr. Trump will not be president. And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people. And I think they recognize that being president is a serious job,” he told reporters in California.
“It’s not hosting a talk show or a reality show. It’s not promotion. It’s not marketing. It’s hard,” he said on the sidelines of a summit with leaders and representatives.
Trump, 69, reacted with scorn.
“This man has done such a bad job, he has set us back so far,” Trump said in a television interview, adding however that in a way, being singled out — even for reproach — by the sitting US president was “a great compliment.”
Cruz, a first-term senator from Texas, piled on Trump during a rally in Anderson.
Clearly speaking of Trump, Cruz called on Americans not to nominate and elect a Republican who has “defended abortion or partial birth abortion for the first 60 years of his life.”
Trump leads handily in South Carolina, with a new CNN poll showing him with 38 percent support over arch-conservative Cruz, who has 22 percent.
The 16-point spread is down from the 20-point RealClearPolitics average, suggesting a softening in some support after Saturday’s bruising debate slugfest.
But here’s what voters are saying:
Trump supporter Jennifer Twilley, reflecting on the anger and frustration coursing through the US electorate, said Trump’s status as a magnate and political outsider made him ideal for the job.
“I don’t really want an established politician anymore,” Twilley, an engineer with General Dynamics who was wearing a pink button that read “Hot Chicks for Donald Trump,” told AFP.
She dismissed the concerns about his braggadocio and confrontational rhetoric.
“I don’t care about the drama, I just want him to fix the financial problems,” she said.
More than halfway through his hourlong speech, a protester interrupted Trump but was shouted down by supporters. She was escorted out of the venue with her middle fingers raised in the air.