ROCK HILL — Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump rode a wave of good news into South Carolina Friday night — his continued dominance in the GOP presidential primary.
Trump started his appearance at Winthrop University by touting a new Fox News poll, out Friday, that has him at 35 percent support with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, trailing at 20 percent. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was in third with 13 percent.
“Those are pretty wild numbers,” the billionaire real-estate developer and reality-TV star said to cheers.
There were negative moments, however.
Four times, Trump was interrupted by apparent protesters. Their chants were inaudible, but police immediately collapsed around the protesters and escorted them out of the university’s 6,000-seat coliseum, packed out for the event.
The crowd boomed its disapproval of the interruptions, booing and chanting “Trump” and “USA.”
In an often stream-of-consciousness speaking style, the fast-talking Trump mixed his signature campaign stump-speech mainstays — saying Mexico is going to pay for the “big, beautiful wall” along the U.S. border — with jokes.
Trump also continued to play up his adversarial relationship with the media, who he called “miserable people,” prompting the crowd to turn and boo loudly at reporters nearby.
Trump continued his broad promises to get things done in Washington if elected.
As a “world-class businessman,” who has given millions of dollars away, Trump said he knows lobbyists and “could get almost anything passed” if elected president.
“I gotta be friendly with everyone. So, I’ll give to (Democrats). I’ll give to Republicans. I’ll give to whatever. But, you know, I always get treated good.”
Between mocking Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton for reading off of teleprompters, zinging U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Seneca Republican who quit the GOP presidential race last month, and belittling former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose name Trump said he should not bring up because of Bush’s low poll standing, Trump promised to improve the standing of the United States in the world.
“I have people calling me that are worth billions of dollars and have made a fortune … They want to work on it. I say, ‘Japan, you work on it. China, you work on it.’ … We will make our country rich again, fast.”
The crowd was lively, yelling and erupting throughout the event.
Several supporters said they like Trump because he says what he thinks.
Andy DeWitt of Chester said he has not voted since Jimmy Carter ran for president, but Trump is getting him involved in politics again.
“I didn’t feel like anybody could lead the country,” DeWitt said. Of Trump, he said, “He’s not a politician. He’s a leader, a natural-born leader.”
Dan Whigham of Lancaster County said he voted for then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama in 2008 but sat out the 2012 election because he did not like any of the candidates.
“We always kind of hope for that charismatic leader that we haven’t had since (Ronald) Reagan or (John) Kennedy,” said Whigham, who said he will back Trump this year, voting in South Carolina’s Jan. 20 Republican primary for the first time ever.
Trump, he said, is a businessman and “not beholden to the PACs, not beholden to the lobbyists.”
Undecided voters Randy and Kathy Wilke of Fort Mill said they have voted Republican in recent presidential elections but have never been to political events until this year, adding they do not like many of the candidates running.
“We’re not certain we’re going to vote for Trump,” Randy Wilke said, adding the “hope and change” promised by Obama did not pan out.
Dismissing Trump’s boisterous style as theatrics, Wilke said Trump “will find a way to get things done” if elected.
Before Trump took the stage, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-Indian Land, said he attended the rally see what kind of people were coming to see Trump.
Mulvaney, who won a congressional seat in the state’s 5th District on a wave of Tea Party support and has endorsed U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in the GOP race, said he would back Trump if he becomes the GOP nominee.
Mulvaney said Trump has appeared “presidential” at times but anger is driving voters to be curious about the Republican and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
“Folks are angry and not really able to articulate why,” said Mulvaney.
“I keep wondering if he’s got a different gear that, at some point, he goes from being the rabid populist to the presidential businessman,” the congressman said of Trump. “I don’t know.”
Donald Trump Presidential Candidate Profile — InsideGov
Jamie Self: 803-771-8658, @jamiemself
S.C. Republican primary
Where the leading GOP candidates stand, based on an average of polls:
Donald Trump: 33 percent
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz: 22 percent
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio: 12 percent
Ben Carson: 9.5 percent
Jeb Bush: 8.5 percent
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul: 3.5 percent
SOURCE: Real Clear Politics
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