Republican candidate Donald Trump tonight said “the gloves are a little bit off” now in the presidential race. Trump described Marco Rubio, a rising Republican rival, as “not tough enough to be president,” but Trump’s biggest rhetorical punches were aimed at Ben Carson, the competitor who has passed Trump in recent Iowa polls.
“People now are getting a little rambunctious and that’s a good thing,” Trump said at the start of a two-hour appearance before a big crowd in Fort Dodge. “…We will talk about…some of the different candidates.”
Trump suggested Carson is “an enigma” and, while Trump warned the audience there is “no cure” to the “pathological” temper Carson has said he had as a destitute teenager in Detroit, Trump also cast doubt on Carson’s account of trying to hit his mother and stab a friend before his religious conversion.
“How stupid are the people of Iowa?” Trump asked the crowd. “How stupid are the people of this country to believe this crap?”
Trump called Rubio “weak…like a baby” on the issue of immigration. Trump has proposed sending undocumented immigrants back to their home countries and he warned the U.S. economy will suffer if they’re allowed to stay.
“If you cross the United States border illegally you get a job, you get a driver’s license — you know that’s true, you get food stamps, you get a place to live, you get health care, housing, child benefits and, in many cases, education,” Trump said. “You wonder why we’re a debtor nation. You wonder why our country’s going to hell. You look at that.”
Trump also blasted commentators who’ve said he turned in a “low key” performance in Tuesday night’s prime-time debate.
“I say, ‘Low key?’ I’m screaming at Kasich, right?” Trump said, to laughter and scattered applause the grew louder as he continued. “I’m telling Carly whatever-the-hell-her-name-is Fiorina, I’m saying: ‘Will you stop cutting in?’ No, everybody that talked, she cuts in, cuts in. You know, I’m raising my hand. I’m trying to be a gentleman.”
Trump at one point asked if anyone in the crowd had a copy of his newest book. A man near the front handed Trump his copy of “Crippled America” and Trump used it as a stage prop for a while before signing the book and handing it back. After describing the frowning photo on the book’s cover, Trump told the crowd it was time to get “mean” to get the country back on track.
“The message in a certain way is: ‘We’re just not going to take this anymore,'” Trump said, to cheers.
Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie and Rand Paul also campaigned in Iowa today.
Fiorina responded directly to Trump this evening via Twitter.
“Donald, sorry, I’ve got to interrupt again. You would know something about pathological,” she wrote. “…Anyone can turn a multi-million dollar inheritance into more money, but all the money in the world won’t make you as smart as Ben Carson.”
Earlier today Christie told a crowd in eastern Iowa that Trump had tapped into the “complete anger” voters have toward Washington. Christie also joked that it was “exhausting” to be around Trump because Trump talks about himself all the time.