- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Donald Trump is dominating the Republican presidential race, surging in the polls, sucking up all the oxygen with revelations of a net worth in excess of $10 billion, and leaving his opponents sputtering that his candidacy is ruining the GOP.

Mr. Trump brushed aside those complaints. He mocked his fellow candidates as career politicians unworthy of the White House and incapable of the kinds of negotiations and leadership required of the next president.

He said his own complex political history, such as donations to Democrats including the Clintons, isn’t proof that he is a wayward Republican but rather evidence that former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and any other politician can be bought — while he, a wealthy businessman, cannot.

“I contribute to everybody. When I needed Hillary, she was there. If I say, ‘Go to my wedding,’ they go to my wedding,” he said in a telephone interview on the “Fox and Friends” program. “I contribute to everybody, and you know what? That’s part of the problem with our system. Because they’re going to do for me and all their donors things that aren’t necessarily good for the country, but they’re good for their donors.”

One of the newest entrants into the race, Mr. Trump has surged to the top of the Republican field in a Suffolk University/USA Today poll released Tuesday. His favorability numbers also have soared, and he now scores a 57 percent positive rating among Republicans in an ABC/Washington Post poll, compared with a two-thirds unfavorable rating with Republican voters in the same poll in May.

He also has become the chief topic of conversation for the rest of the field in both parties.

SEE ALSO: Ted Cruz defends ‘bold, brash’ Donald Trump ahead of sit-down

Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of “hate speech” for his comment that Mexico is sending rapists and other serious criminals to the U.S., and have said the real estate tycoon is a litmus test for the rest of the Republican field: Either denounce him or be complicit in anti-immigrant behavior.

Longtime Republican politicians agreed with Democrats and said voters should be wary of Mr. Trump.

“He’s riding a wave of just outlandish behavior,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a fellow Republican presidential hopeful, told NBC’s “Today” program. “I think the overwhelming majority of Republicans don’t like that rhetoric.”

Mr. Graham called Mr. Trump “a wrecking ball when it comes to policy” and said he is hurting the Republican Party.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a son and brother of former presidents, used a campaign stop in Iowa this week to compare Mr. Trump to President Obama, saying they both use “rhetoric of divisiveness.”

“I don’t want to be associated with the kind of vitriol that he’s spewing out these days,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Trump has waved off the complaints and mocked his opponents’ competence and their grabby hands when it comes to campaign donations.

The first big set of finance reports was due at the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday. Mr. Bush’s campaign reported collecting $11.4 million, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry received more than $1.1 million in contributions, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal pulled in $578,000.

The campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said its report would show that it raised about $12 million, and Sen. Ted Cruz’s camp said the Texas Republican received $10 million.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson picked up $8.3 million, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee received $2 million, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was said to have raised $1.4 million.

The reports tell only part of the story thanks to the rise of super political action committees, which can raise unlimited amounts of money and are poised to play a big role in the presidential campaign. Mr. Bush, for example, is being aided by a super PAC that has raised more than $100 million — a total Mr. Trump said should make voters wary.

“Everybody that’s given him money expects something,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s not one person that gave him money that isn’t expecting something, and a lot of those things may not be good for the country. They’re only good for the donor, for the lobbyist, for the special interest.”

Mr. Bush did announce Wednesday that he would release the names of “bundlers,” or major financiers who arrange for large numbers of donations. They are considered influential because of the amount of money they are able to wrangle. Mr. Bush becomes the first candidate on the Republican side to pledge to release those names.

Mr. Trump, one of the wealthiest people ever to run for president, reported a net worth “in excess of ten billion dollars,” his campaign said in a statement Wednesday that emphasized those words for effect.

He reported owning nearly 500 businesses, earning $362 million in 2014 alone and grabbing more than $200 million from NBC for his 14 seasons of reality show “The Apprentice.” In the statement, he said NBC tried to renew “The Apprentice” for a 15th season but he turned it down.

NBC was one of the businesses that canceled agreements with Mr. Trump after his comments on immigration and Mexico.

Republican strategist Michael McKenna said Mr. Trump’s campaign is tapping into voter dissatisfaction with career politicians relying on carefully tested messages.

“He is obviously expressing some anxiety in a really pointed way that no other candidate is,” Mr. McKenna said. “You’d think among the 16 other candidates, somebody would view it as an advantage to be the person who just cuts it loose and says what he thinks. But we have now become so managed by political consultants that we have a world in which people are incapable of calling a spade a spade.”

⦁ Stephen Dinan, Tom Howell Jr. and Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.



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