Donald Trump may have more in common with one of his Democratic counterparts than he would like to admit.
At MSNBC’s GOP town hall event in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday, the Republican frontrunner was asked by “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski to match the candidate with the following description:
“[The] candidate is considered a political outsider by all of the pundits. He’s tapping into the anger of voters, delivers a populist message. He believes everyone in the country should have health care. He advocates for hedge fund managers to pay higher taxes. He is drawing thousands of people at his rallies and bringing in a lot of new voters into the political process.”
“Who am I describing?” Brzezinski asked.
“You’re describing Donald Trump,” Trump responded.
“Actually, I was describing Bernie Sanders,” Brzezinski replied.
After being caught off guard, the brash billionaire admitted there is one thing he and the self-described Democratic socialist from Vermont have in common, aside from their presidential aspirations.
“He knows that our country is being ripped off big league — big league — on trade,” Trump said of Sanders. “The problem is, he can’t do anything about it, he’s not going to be able to, whereas I’m going to do things.”
Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop in Bluffton, S.C., on Wednesday. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)
“I mean, he doesn’t understand what’s happening,” Trump continued. “I’m talking about negotiating with them. We have all the cards; we don’t play them. We’re negotiating against great negotiators. China, Mexico, Japan — we’re going to start doing great things with those. And that’s the thing: Bernie Sanders can’t do it.”
Earlier during the town hall, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough challenged Trump on his recent criticism of former President George W. Bush’s handling of intelligence before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
“I guess this is the Republican in me,” Scarborough said. “But how can you blame George W. Bush for the 9/11 attacks?”
“I’m not blaming anybody,” Trump replied. “But if you go back and you’ll see the CIA and the NSA and all of the other groups, they were not getting together, Joe. They were not doing well. They hated each other, the top people hated each other, they weren’t talking. They had a lot of intelligence, they knew something bad was going to happen. I’m not blaming anybody.”
Brzezinski told Yahoo News that such criticism doesn’t usually play well in a state like South Carolina, but Trump doesn’t seem to care.
“With Donald Trump, everything is upside-down and every day is Opposite Day,” Brzezinski said.
“It seems like people in South Carolina, like the people of New Hampshire before them, are voting for the man,” Scarborough said.
“And not the party,” Brzezinski added.
According to a new CNN/ORC poll, Trump has a double-digit lead in South Carolina ahead of Saturday’s Republican primary. The real estate mogul holds a 16-point advantage (38 percent to 22 percent) over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the Palmetto State, the survey found. (A Bloomberg Politics South Carolina poll released Wednesday showed Trump with a 19-point lead over Cruz.)
And a new Quinnipiac national poll released Wednesday shows Trump with 39 percent support among GOP voters — a high-water mark for the poll-obsessed businessman — followed by Rubio at 19 percent, Cruz at 18 percent and Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 6 percent.
But a separate NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll released before Wednesday’s town hall had Cruz overtaking Trump (28 percent to 26 percent) with Rubio (17 percent) a distant third.
“I think ‘outlier’ is an understatement for this NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll,” Scarborough told Yahoo News. “I will say if they get it right, they will be standing alone right now. But everybody that I talk to that does this day in and day out and follows the campaigns says it just doesn’t sound right.”
Cover tile photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters