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Friday, January 29, 2016

Trump on center stage at veterans' rally

Event in competition with Fox GOP debate

Donald Trump
While other Republican presidential candidates were making their final pitches before Iowa voters caucus on Monday at Fox News’ undercard and primetime debates in Des Moines, GOP front-runner Donald Trump was across town soaking up the spotlight at what he described as a “special event” to benefit veterans, joined by his GOP primary rivals Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
The Trump event was carried live by CNN, MSNBC, CBS and YouTube here, here and here.
Iowa TV stations, which don’t have the legal right to broadcast the live Fox debate, also covered the Trump event and offered live-streaming coverage.
Trump opened the rally with a thank you to the crowd and an explanation that he had to do something in Iowa, although he couldn’t take part in the Fox debate because of the network’s treatment of him.
The real-estate mogul announced Fox had changed its tone and been “very nice to me” in recent hours and that his event had “more cameras” and was drawing more interest than the cable outlet’s debate.
“You have to stick up for your rights,” he said. “When you’re treated badly, you have to stick up for your rights.”
Trump chose a humble venue for his event, a cozy 775-seat auditorium on the campus of Drake University. The venue was packed and members of the press who could not squeeze into the auditorium watched on a television in an overflow room, which itself overflowed, with reporters lining the walls and sitting on the floor, reported Politico.
Trump’s wife, Melania, was seated in the front row. About 150 Trump supporters were lined up outside in a “party atmosphere,” reported CNN.
At one point in the rally, Trump introduced his daughter Ivanka, who is pregnant and expecting a baby in a few weeks. “‘Ivanka, I said, it would be so great if you had your baby in Iowa.’ It would be so great – I’d definitely win!” exclaimed Trump.
The billionaire businessman also blasted President Obama’s Iran deal, calling it the “worst deal I’ve seen negotiated under any circumstances. … We have to stick up for our country.”
“How is it possible Iran just got $150 billion from this country, their first purchase is 114 Airbus jets. Not Boeing,” he continued. “They go to Russia, they’re buying missiles.”
Listing major donors to the site, he announced that the event raised $6 million and that “a politician from New York,” named Donald Trump, had given $1 million.
Protesters chanted briefly, but succeeded in halting Trump’s speech literally for only a few seconds.
Mentioning that he’s funding his own campaign, Trump cited Jeb Bush’s acceptance of millions of dollars. Lobbyists, when they “put in $6 million, $5 million, $1 million, they’re not just doing it, they want something,” he said.
Trump then called Sen. Rick Santorum up to the stage, along with Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“I’m supporting another candidate for president,” Santorum grinned. “That doesn’t mean we can’t work together to help veterans.”
He called for improvements in health care for veterans.
“Twenty two vets a day commit suicide, because of PTSD and related illnesses,” he said. “Let’s take all that money for the VA … [and have them] take care of our vets.”
Stepping behind the Trump sign, Huckabee said, “You’re going to get the picture anyway, I figured I might just as well stand here.”
He, too, called for a unified effort to help veterans.
“Thank you Donald Trump for asking Rick Santorum and me … it says something about him that he would bring us here to his own event. … We wouldn’t have free elections if it wasn’t for the people who stand between bullets and bombs and our freedom.”
Red State editor Erick Erickson jumped into the event, tweeting, “Huckabee and Santorum are admitting their campaigns are over by kneeling before Trump.”
But at the Blaze was a report that Huckabee said before he left the early Fox debate, “I’ve got nothing else going on tonight, so let’s go over there and support them.”
And Santorum agreed, adding, “As I said before, I’m not busy tonight.”
Video bloggers Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson, two black women from North Carolina who have become prominent surrogates for the Trump campaign, made brief remarks.
As Trump mentioned at the start of the rally, Fox News CEO Ailes did indeed contact Trump in an effort to convince him to appear at the Fox debate.
The network said, “Roger Ailes had three brief conversations with Donald Trump today about possibly appearing at the debate – there were not multiple calls placed by Ailes to Trump. In the course of those conversations, we acknowledged his concerns about a satirical observation we made in order to quell the attacks on Megyn Kelly, and prevent her from being smeared any further.”
Then the network chided Trump for asking for $5 million for his charities in order to appear.
“We explained that was not possible and we could not engage in a quid pro quo, nor could any money change hands for any reason,” the network said. “In the last 48 hours, we’ve kept two issues at the forefront – we would never compromise our journalistic standards and we would always stand by our journalist, Megyn Kelly. We have accomplished those two goals and we are pleased with the outcome. We’re very proud to have her on stage as a debate moderator alongside Bret Baier & Chris Wallace.”
Trump refused to participate in the prime-time Fox debate in protest of what he says was unfair treatment by Fox News executives, and the bias of moderator Megyn Kelly during the first debate six months ago.
Trump publicly suggested Fox boot Kelly as co-moderator, and Fox issued a mocking press release on Tuesday that questioned Trump’s toughness. Trump cited the statement in announcing his boycott later that day.
“We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president,” Fox’s statement read. “A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”
Shortly afterward, Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, invited other television networks to live stream Trump’s competing event at an arena at Drake University – a fundraiser for veterans hastily thrown together after Tuesday’s withdrawal – predicting it would attract higher ratings than the debate.
“People that are going to caucus for Trump – it doesn’t matter if he’s here or not,” state Rep. Mike Sexton, co-chairman of the Calhoun County Republican Party, told Politico. “They are just dedicated to this guy, and they’re going to caucus for him.”
But others claimed Trump’s refusal to participate in the debate wasn’t sitting well with Iowa voters.
“They are disappointed,” Heather Stancil, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Madison County, told the news site. “People I’m talking to think it was a bad decision.”
On Wednesday evening, Fox News pollster Frank Luntz posted a Twitter poll asking users whether they intended to watch Trump’s event or the Republican debate. With roughly 5,000 votes cast, respondents chose Trump’s event over the debate by a 2-to-1 margin.
A Monmouth University Poll of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers released Tuesday shows Trump still dominating his rivals. The billionaire earned 30 percent support compared to 23 percent for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Huckabee garners 3 percent and Santorum does not crack 1 percent.


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