On the eve of a Phoenix rally that he predicts will draw 5,000 people to hear him speak about illegal immigration, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told Bloomberg's "With All Due Respect" that he has no intention of backing off the stands that have drawn him rebukes from some top-ranking political figures. "We have to stop illegal immigration," the billionaire businessman told interviewer Mark Halperin on Friday. "The country is being decimated by it."
Speaking about the wave of criticism he has received this week, he did not back down. “All I can do is talk the truth,” Trump said. He declined to say that he has made any mistakes, or that anything had hurt his feelings. “No,” Trump said, “because I’m a big boy.”
Shortly after Trump made his comments, the senior senator of the state that he will be visiting for his Saturday rally issued a statement that, without naming the real estate mogul, clearly took issue with his rhetoric. "The circus currently surrounding the debate over illegal immigration sows division within our country and damages the Republican Party," said Arizona Senator John McCain, the Republican Party's 2008 presidential nominee. "If the Republican nominee for president does not support comprehensive immigration reform and border security policy, we have no chance of defeating Hillary Clinton and winning the White House in 2016."
In his interview with Halperin, Trump acknowledged that the intensity of the presidential campaign had surprised him. When asked to name competitors in the Republican field whom he respects, he pointed to Texas Senator Ted Cruz and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who have come out in defense of his comments.
At one point, Trump said that he felt the week, in which he has been a major focus of national political coverage, had improved his chances of winning, though later stated that he wasn’t entirely sure.
He made much of an Economist/YouGov poll that placed him Thursday in the lead of the presidential field.
Trump has received a spate of negative attention since his remarks on immigrants coming from Mexico at his official presidential campaign announcement on June 16th. Businesses including Univision, NBC, Macy’s, plus a number of golf tournaments and celebrity chefs have moved to distance themselves from him. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, called Trump that day to encourage him to tamp down inflammatory comments on immigration. Trump has characterized the call differently.
Trump stressed his maverick status, twice telling Halperin, “I’m not a politician.”
He said, “The politicians will never take us to the promised land,” whereas he alone has the capacity to win the general election. “I am the only one that can beat Hillary Clinton,” he said, “I will win the Hispanic vote.”
He said that he will speak without a prepared text in his Arizona speech Saturday—“I have a very great memory”—and stressed how high the attendance will be in Phoenix, and at an event Friday evening in California.
“I believe in winning,” Trump said.
(Contributing: Ben Brody)