Donald Trump stands by his antagonistic campaign rhetoric

2016-03-14 10:40
Donald Trump (AP)

Donald Trump (AP)

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Bloomington – Republican front-runner Donald Trump stood by his antagonistic campaign rhetoric on Sunday, rejecting any responsibility for violence at his rallies. His remarks come just two days before make-or-break primaries that likely offer his rivals their last shot at derailing his march toward his party's nomination.

"We're not provoking. We want peace. ...We don't want trouble," he told a large crowd at a comparatively docile event in Bloomington, Illinois.

Trump's remarks come after a near-riot on Friday night in Chicago as the billionaire real estate mogul cancelled a scheduled rally amid widespread altercations among his supporters, detractors and authorities.

His three-state schedule, which included a stop in West Chester, Ohio, and ends on Sunday evening in Florida, also comes less than 48 hours before polls open in five states that could determine whether he wins the Republican nomination without a contested summer convention this summer in Cleveland.

Against that backdrop, Trump continued to blame protesters, media and even Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders for the increasingly caustic campaign environment that his rivals assailed.

Interrupted only sparingly in Illinois, Trump assured his backers their frustration is righteous rage against a corrupt political and economic system. He cast his naysayers as "bad people" that "do harm to the country."

He has tried since the aborted Chicago rally to shift focus to Ohio, where he faces a late push from the popular Republican governor, John Kasich. The outcome will help determine whether Trump can reach the 1 237 delegates required to secure the nomination.

Tuesday's results in Ohio and Florida – in which the winner takes all the state's delegates to the national convention – could be decisive in the Republican primary race. Ohio Gov John Kasich and Florida Sen Marco Rubio would face pressure to quit the race if either loses his home state.

Called him a “baby”

At an earlier stop this weekend, Trump aimed directly at Kasich, calling him "a baby" and deliberately mispronouncing the governor's Czech surname.

"He's not the right guy to be president. He's not tough enough, he's not sharp enough," Trump said at an event outside Dayton.

In line with his protectionist economic pitch, Trump noted Kasich's support for the North American Free Trade Agreement as a member of Congress in the 1990s.

Kasich, meanwhile, reversed his months-long practice of avoiding the topic of Trump.

Speaking with The Associated Press aboard his campaign bus between stops in Ohio, Kasich brandished his iPad and read a list of roughly a dozen Trump quotes compiled by an aide. The quotes included Trump's comments that his audiences should "hit back" a little more and a statement that he'd like to punch a protester in the face.

"I never really had looked through those quotes," he said. "It's really cause for pause."

Trump's events unquestionably have become increasingly tense over the course of his campaign, and the candidate has frequently called for aggressive tactics against protesters.

Trump confirmed earlier on Sunday that he was considering paying the legal fee of a North Carolina man charged with assault after video captured him punching a protester being escorted by police out of a March 9 rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

He began this weekend blaming protesters on Sanders, saying the Vermont senator's campaign organises "disrupters" at Trump events.

Indeed, some protesters at Trump events are seen carrying Sanders' campaign signs, but Sanders scoffed on Sunday at the notion that he's responsible.

"To suggest that our campaign is telling people to disrupt his campaign is a lie," Sanders said on Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

“A man who keeps implying violence”

Trump wrote on Twitter and suggested again on the Sunday talk show circuit he would urge his backers to protest Sanders rallies. Sanders' official Twitter account retorted: "Send them. They deserve to see what a real honest politician sounds like."

Sanders said on CNN that Trump "is a man who keeps implying violence, and then you end up getting what you see."

Trump counters that he's due credit for cancelling the Friday rally and avoiding a worse outcome. Still, he claimed incorrectly that "nobody gets hurt" at his rallies, despite multiple videos showing protesters pushed, punched and bullied at his events.

The remaining Republican hopefuls piled on Trump, as well.

Texas Sen Ted Cruz, Trump's closest competitor in delegate count, was careful to criticise protesters for their methods, but said Trump encourages an essentially un-American atmosphere.

"I'm troubled by the rallies that Donald holds, where he asks all the people there to raise their hand and pledge their support to him," Cruz said on NBC's "Meet the Press," continuing, "This is America. We don't pledge allegiance to a man. We pledge allegiance to a flag."

A distant third in delegates, Rubio compared Trump to third-world "strong men," and said the tone of the campaign "is really going to do damage to America."

According to an Associated Press count, Trump leads the overall race for delegates with 460. Cruz has 370, Rubio has 163 and Kasich has 63.

In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton ow has 766 delegates to Sanders' 551, based on primaries and caucuses alone. Including super delegates – party leaders and elected officials who can support any candidate – Clinton's lead is even bigger: 1 231 to Sanders' 576.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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