Donald Trump got back to key economic issues in his in-depth town hall interview Wednesday night in Charleston, South Carolina with MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
Trump focused on his proposed tax and spending cuts and vowed to re-negotiate America’s trade deals, which is a wedge issue that is playing very well with voters in the open South Carolina primary, which will allow independents and Democrats to vote on Saturday. Trump also doubled down on his criticisms of George W. Bush’s national security record.
“I’m going to cut spending bigly,” Trump said, explaining how he will also increase revenues in order to bring down the debt. “I’m going to cut taxes. We’re going to bring jobs back and have a dynamic economy…We’re going to cut tremendous amounts of money.”
“I have a great temperament,” Trump said in the town hall, in which he pushed back on the image created in the last debate and in recent headlines that he is spinning out of control in his fight with Ted Cruz. Trump pointed out how Cruz’s quasi-filibuster against Obamacare and the government shutdown did not actually kill Obamacare.
“I think I will set myself apart because my policies are better” and “I’m a better leader,” Trump said. “You look at a guy like Ted Cruz, he’s a nasty guy…not one senator has endorsed him …To stand in front of the Senate for two days and have everyone laugh at you and get nothing? He accomplished nothing with that.”
Trump noted that he can win New York in the general election, that he has a “great chance at Michigan,” and “I’ll definitely get Pennsylvania. I’ll get Ohio” and will probably win Iowa and other Midwestern purple states. Trump again took on Republican orthodoxy by pushing for the ability to negotiate drug prices — something he can pass since he’s not taking money from the drug companies.
Trump went to his ace in the hole in South Carolina, trade, and explained how Mexico will effectively pay for his border wall.
“Our trade agreements are a disaster. TPP is a disaster because they don’t talk about monetary manipulation or devaluation…Our trade agreements will be fully re-negotiated by me.”
“We’re going to have a trade deficit this year with Mexico of 58 billion dollars,” Trump said. “As soon as I start playing with that trade deficit, they are going to pay for the wall…we have all the cards.”
Trump pledged to help students lower the cost of higher education and gave special attention to a question about how he will help African-Americans through private sector methods. Trump said:
I have to say right now, we have an African-American president, and we have African-American youth unemployment at 58 percent, maybe even higher…..I see nothing but problems. Barack Obama has done nothing economically for African-Americans…We’re going to bring back our jobs from China, we’re bringing them back from Mexico…Number one, we have to get rid of rules and regulations [on small business]. The regulations on companies today are so outrageous that they cannot compete.
Trump also spoke of his “major tax cut” to correct the problem that “small businesses are paying taxes that are way too much.”
Notably, George W. Bush complained in a post-presidential interview with Bill O’Reilly that small businesses, which create 70 percent of new jobs, pay taxes at an individual rate. It’s a problem that Bush never corrected in the White House. As this reporter revealed, then-House Majority Leader John Boehner pushed tax reform off the Republican agenda during the year of the 2006 midterms, which the GOP ended up losing, costing the Republicans any chance to pass a tax reform bill during the Bush presidency.
On the subject of Bush, Trump doubled down on his criticisms of Bush-era national security policies.
“They didn’t have weapons of mass destruction…We attacked Iraq but they did not knock down the World Trade Center…they de-stabilized the Middle East.”
Trump, trailing Cruz 28 percent to 26 percent nationally in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll but leading widely in other national polls and in South Carolina, is clearly making an effort to get back on point after the media painted him as being in an emotional tailspin following the contentious debate in Greenville.
Some of Trump’s Republican rivals, including Rubio, appeared on CNN at the same time for a town hall event in Greenville. Trump will take the CNN stage Thursday night for the second part of the event.
As Ted Cruz rails against Trump’s “frivolity” and Jeb Bush radio ads ask if America wants “our children exposed to” Trump, who has said swear words in the past that are still on tape, the best thing for the front-runner to do right now is to focus on the issues. On this front, Trump made a strong case in Wednesday’s town hall for why his fiscal policies are better off for the fact that he’s not taking corporate donor money like his opponents.