Donald Trump on Friday said Sen. John McCain of Arizona was “very disloyal” to him and predicted Mr. McCain would lose in a GOP primary if the right challenger runs against him.
“Well first of all, let me tell you, I supported John McCain. He let us down because he lost but, you know, it was a hard one after what had happened with the economy,” Mr. Trump said via phone on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “But I supported him, raised a lot of money for him … and I’m a loyalist. I’m a person that … if somebody is with me, I’m with that person. And John McCain was very disloyal to me, number one, this is the first time I’ve spoken to him in a long time.”
Mr. McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, spoke about Mr. Trump’s recent rally in Arizona in a interview published in The New Yorker this week.
“This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful to me,” Mr. McCain said. “Because what he did was he fired up the crazies.”
Mr. Trump, who is leading the 2016 GOP presidential field in two recent polls, said he had 15,000 people come to the recent rally in Arizona and said that “they weren’t crazies — they were great Americans.”
Local reports pegged the crowd actually inside at the Phoenix Convention Center at several thousand, but Mr. Trump tweeted July 12: “Convention Center officials in Phoenix don’t want to admit that they broke the fire code by allowing 12-15,000 people in 4,000 code room.”
“I know crazies, believe me — these were great Americans,” Mr. Trump said Friday. “And they wanted to know about illegal immigration. It’s killing them. Illegal immigration is really hurting these people, especially when you’re talking about Arizona and Phoenix, and we had an amazing group of people, and when he called them crazies, I think he will lose in the primary.”
“If the right person runs against him, they’ll win. … He’s not very popular there, anyway,” Mr. Trump continued.
GOP State Sen. Kelli Ward announced earlier this week she is challenging Mr. McCain, who handily defeated former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth in a 2010 primary.
A McCain spokesman said in response to Ms. Ward’s announcement that “Arizonans know that John McCain will never stop fighting for Arizona and America, as he has his entire adult life, both in uniform and in Congress.”
“Senator McCain looks forward to this campaign, and to discussing his strong record of protecting America’s national security, standing up for veterans, and growing Arizona’s economy,” spokesman Brian Rogers said.
Mr. Trump also went after Mr. McCain’s academic record at the U.S. Naval Academy, tweeting on Thursday: “@SenJohnMcCain should be defeated in the primaries. Graduated last in his class at Annapolis — dummy!”
“We ended up with 15,000 people and they were great Americans, they were great people, and John McCain calls them crazies. I think it’s inappropriate,” Mr. Trump said.
“So, of course, I brought up a point that very few people know that he was just about or last [in his class] at Annapolis, and why not? He was very nasty to me,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump has also traded barbs recently with fellow presidential contenders former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
“My attitude is this: if a person is nice to me, I will go out of my way to be nice to that person,” he said, pointing to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, one of his rivals in the presidential race who has backed him up on the issue of illegal immigration, as an example.
“Ted Cruz came out totally and strongly in favor of me. I don’t forget things like that. I think it was very nice,” Mr. Trump said.
“John McCain made a big mistake,” he said. “I think John McCain will lose in the primary if somebody good runs against him.”