Expressing confidence that American voters do not care if he lacks specifics, Donald J. Trump says he has yet to fully exploit his personal advantages over his Republican presidential rivals — chiefly his enormous wealth and celebrity — and that both will matter more to his political fate than debate performances like his shaky one this week.
Mr. Trump said in an interview that he was prepared to spend $100 million or more to become the Republican nominee and that most of it would go to galvanizing voter support in states with early nominating contests. While he boasted last month that he would spend $1 billion if need be, he said that a realistic amount would be far less and that he would count on the national Republican Party for financial help if he became the nominee.
He also predicted that the extensive media coverage of his campaign would help him win caucuses and primaries in every region of the country, saying that he had planned to spend $15 million on campaign commercials this summer but did not because of the “free nationwide publicity” that the cable news networks provided.
After three months surging in Republican polls and putting rivals like Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin on the defensive, Mr. Trump faced increasingly combative opponents in Wednesday’s debate — particularly the business executive Carly Fiorina, who confronted him repeatedly. He drew some harsh notices for his vague and blustery answers — as well as for his decision, at a rally here on Thursday night, to breeze past an audience member’s false statement that President Obama was a Muslim.
A Republican opponent, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, and the leading Democratic candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, both sharply criticized Mr. Trump on Friday for not stating that Mr. Obama is a Christian.
“He’s got to decide how serious a candidate he wants to be,” Mr. Christie said on NBC’s “Today” show, “and how he handles different problems like this are going to determine that in the eyes of the American people.”
Mr. Trump has so far glided through controversy and criticism that might derail other candidates. Yet the attacks from rivals and outside conservative groups are only beginning — a development he appeared to acknowledge as he highlighted his own advantages in the months to come.
Mr. Trump sidestepped a question about not correcting the remark that Mr. Obama is a Muslim — “The bigger issue is that Obama is waging a war against Christians in this country,” he said. But he also said that Americans liked the fact that he did not react to things like voter anger and debate questions with the ordinary language of politicians.
Source: The New York Times | PATRICK HEALY