After blowing away the competition in New Hampshire, Donald Trump has his eyes on the next prize: South Carolina. So does the rest of the GOP field.
With reliable polling so far virtually nonexistent here, the shrunken crew of Republican candidates descended upon the state on Wednesday, eager to make their pitches ahead of the Feb. 20 primary.
In a dirt-floor-covered rodeo arena on the outskirts of Clemson University, Trump boasted of his enormous New Hampshire victory.
“We won it big. … We won by a lot — a really lot,” he said to roaring applause from a crowd of about 3,000. “I got like one hour of sleep … because when you have victory you don’t need sleep.”
The evening rally, hosted in the heart of a deeply conservative and religious district of rural South Carolina, began with a prayer — and a knock on the media. Almost every head was bowed as African-American evangelical Pastor Mark Burns told the crowd that Trump “believes in Jesus Christ” and is an authentic Republican. “The media believe Trump is not a true conservative … but the devil is a liar.”
But rather than talking about socially conservative issues, Trump launched into an attack on Jeb Bush, aiming to end the candidacy of a man who must win here to keep his bid alive. Bush, Trump noted, spent millions more than other contenders in New Hampshire. “And what, is he fourth or fifth?”
“I’ve spent less money than anybody else — but I’m No. 1,” Trump said. “I feel bad for this guy because he’s not going to win.”
For Bush, barely hanging on in the 2016 GOP race for the White House, South Carolina could be his last, best shot. Trump went time and again into a rant against the ex-Florida governor on Wednesday night, knocking him on everything from education to immigration.
“Jeb Bush loves Common Core and he loves weak borders. … ‘They come as an act of love?’” he asked sarcastically, flicking at an often-repeated Bush comment about the reasons undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. “Give me a break.”
Sticking to his usual points, Trump warned the crowd that America is falling behind the rest of the world, in everything from infrastructure to schooling for the next generation: “You go to some of these Asian countries, you go to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, different places in China, you see airports and infrastructure of the likes you’ve never seen … We’ve got trains, they’re like … 150 years old! We’re becoming a Third World country!”
And he railed against “political correctness,” a point that delighted the crowd. “You go to a department store and what don’t you see? ‘Merry Christmas.’ You don’t see ‘Merry Christmas’ anymore. We’re going to say, ‘Merry Christmas!’”
SOURCE: NICK GASS and RACHAEL BADE