Posts Tagged The Republican Party

Trump and Clinton Expected to Win Big in Super Tuesday Contests

Americans began voting Tuesday in what is deemed the most pivotal day in the presidential nominating process, with frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump hoping to wipe out their rivals.

Voters in a dozen states will take part in “Super Tuesday” a series of primaries and caucuses in states ranging from Alaska to Virginia, with Virginia the first to open its polling stations at 6:00 am (1100 GMT).

If Democrat Clinton and Republican Trump an outspoken billionaire political neophyte who has unexpectedly tapped into a vein of conservative rage at conventional politics win big, it could spell doom for their challengers.

Hours before polls opened, the duo made last-ditch appeals to supporters ahead of a day like few others on the calendar leading up to the November election for the White House.

Trump’s Republican rivals, Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, were frantically trying to halt the real estate magnate’s march toward nomination, seeking to unite the party against the man they see as a non-conservative political interloper.

Clinton is riding high after thrashing rival Bernie Sanders in South Carolina over the weekend, securing an astronomical 86 percent of the African-American vote in her third win in four contests.

Should she win black voters by similar margins in places such as Alabama, Georgia and Virginia, she should dominate there to become once again the inevitable candidate.

That was her status at the start of the campaign before the rise of Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.

She was leaving nothing to chance, traveling to multiple states on Monday to urge a strong turnout.

Clinton also took aim at the increasingly hostile campaign rhetoric on the Republican side led by Trump.

– Scapegoating, finger-pointing –

“I really regret the language being used by Republicans. Scapegoating people, finger-pointing, blaming. That is not how we should behave toward one another,” she told hundreds gathered at a university in Fairfax, Virginia.

“We’re going to demonstrate, starting tomorrow on Super Tuesday, there’s a different path that Americans ought to take.”

Trump’s incendiary campaign has infuriated Republican rivals, including mainstream favorite Rubio who has intensified his personal attacks and stressed Trump would have trouble in a general election.

The Florida senator warned supporters in Tennessee that US media and Democratic groups will jump on Trump “like the hounds of hell” if he wins the nomination.

But Trump is clearly in the driver’s seat. He is leading in polls in at least eight of the 11 Super Tuesday states.

And a new CNN/ORC poll shows the billionaire expanding his lead nationally, earning a stunning 49 percent of support compared to second place Rubio, at 16 percent.

Cruz of Texas is third, at 15 percent, followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 10 percent and John Kasich at six percent.

Trump punched back against Rubio, calling him “Little Marco,” mocking him for sweating on the campaign trail and warning that he could not stand up to strong men like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, in which he has accused Mexico of sending rapists across the border, mocked women and the disabled and urged a ban on Muslims entering the country, would have been the undoing of a normal candidate.

But the 2016 cycle has been anything but normal, with a furious electorate keen to back an outsider who scorns the political establishment.

“I’m representing a lot of anger out there,” Trump told CNN.

“We’re not angry people, but we’re angry at the way this country’s being run.”

In the latest controversy, Trump came under withering criticism for not immediately disavowing the support of David Duke, who once led the Ku Klux Klan.

Rubio said Trump’s failure to promptly repudiate Duke, who has expressed support for Trump, makes him “unelectable.”

Some conservatives have said they will shun Trump if he is the nominee.

“This is the party of Abraham Lincoln,” said Senator Ben Sasse, accusing Trump of being a non-conservative plotting a “hostile takeover” of the party.

Trump supporters “need to recognize that there are a whole bunch of other people who say, if this becomes the David Duke/Donald Trump party, there are a lot of us who are out,” he told MSNBC.

If Trump sweeps the South, where many of the Super Tuesday races are taking place, it could be lights out for his Republican challengers.

Texas is the largest prize on Tuesday, and Cruz is banking on winning his home state. He trails in nearly all other Super Tuesday states.

595 Republican delegates are up for grabs Tuesday, nearly half the 1,237 needed to secure the nomination.

Some 865 Democratic delegates are at stake, 36 percent of those needed to win.

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Rubio and Cruz Tag Team Trump in Brutal CNN GOP Presidential Debate

CNN GOP DebateMarco Rubio unleashed a campaign’s worth of opposition research on Donald Trump in the final Republican debate before Tuesday’s crucial primaries.

The problem may be that it took 10 debates and three Trump victories to get Rubio fired up.

Rubio, along with most of the other GOP presidential candidates, has treated Trump with kid-gloves for months, tiptoeing around glaring questions about the real estate mogul’s business record, political ideology, brash temperament and ambiguous policy proposals.

Only now, with Trump threatening to pull away from the field, did Rubio aggressively and brutally try to dismantle the billionaire businessman’s grip on the Republican race, with occasional help from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Rubio accused Trump of shifting his position on deportation and staffing his hotels and other businesses with foreign workers instead of Americans. He also punched holes in the real estate mogul’s vague proposal for replacing President Barack Obama’s health care law.

“What is your plan, Mr. Trump? What is your plan on health care?” Rubio pressed.

The senator also gleefully pointed out Trump’s propensity for repeating talking points over and over again, the same criticism that tripped up Rubio in a debate earlier this month.

“Now he’s repeating himself!” Rubio exclaimed.

Rubio’s assertive posture was sure to be cheered by the crush of Republican officials who have rallied around his campaign in recent days, desperate for the senator to become a viable alternative to Trump. But privately, many were likely wondering why it took so long for Rubio to make his move and whether his strong showing came too late.

Next week’s Super Tuesday contests mark the biggest single-day delegate haul of the nomination contests. A strong showing by Trump could put the nomination within his grasp, raising the stakes for his rivals to stop him.

Rubio was sometimes joined by Cruz in tag-team attacks on Trump. It was a tactical shift for two senators who had trained their fire on each other in recent weeks, both betting that the best strategy was to clear the field of other rivals before moving on to Trump.

But Tuesday’s Nevada caucuses clearly changed their calculus. Trump dominated that contest, beating second-place Rubio by more than 20 points, and pulling ahead significantly in the early delegate count after victories in South Carolina and New Hampshire as well.

Trump appeared rattled at times as he faced the most sustained, face-to-face attacks of the campaign. Before Thursday, only Jeb Bush had made a real effort to tangle with Trump on the debate stage, though it did little to help the former Florida governor. Bush ended his campaign last week after disappointing showings in early primaries and a fundraising drought.

Rubio appeared to have taken lessons from Bush’s exchanges with Trump. The senator was prepared for Trump’s frequent habit of interrupting and almost willfully refused to back down when the businessman tried to talk over him. He also took a page out of Trump’s own playbook, lacing his more substantive critiques with some sharply personal attacks.

During a particularly biting exchange, Rubio said that if Trump hadn’t inherited family money, he would be “selling watches in Manhattan.”

Trump punched back with trademark insults.

After Rubio criticized his hiring practices, the businessman said, “You haven’t hired one person, you liar.” And when Cruz challenged Trump’s conservative credentials by suggesting he’s been too cozy with Democrats, the front-runner ripped the senator for being loathed by many of his Senate colleagues.

“You get along with nobody,” Trump said. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

At times, the three-way fight between Trump, Rubio and Cruz devolved into a shouting match, with each struggling to be heard, let alone make a substantive policy point. The debate moderators were virtually helpless, as were the two other candidates on stage, John Kasich and Ben Carson.

For Rubio, the squabbling was a long way from the uplifting calls for a generational change in American politics and heavy focus on his family’s moving immigrant story that have been the cornerstone of his campaign. Those were the messages that have set Democrats on edge about the prospect of their eventual nominee, likely Hillary Clinton, facing the telegenic, 44-year-old Cuban-American in the general election.

Rubio’s next challenge beyond topping Trump in at least some of the upcoming primaries, will be infusing that more optimistic message into his critique of Trump. He’s also likely to face the full force of Trump’s attacks for the first time in the campaign.

Even before the debate was over, Trump suggested he was eager to keep up the fight.

“This is a lot of fun up here, I have to tell you,” Trump said.

 

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Hillary Plays Down FBI Email Investigation

Hillary CNNHillary Clinton was asked about the controversy over her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state at CNN’s forum for the Democratic presidential candidates on Monday night.

She stressed that there was no negative “intention” behind her choice to use a private email address and pointed to the fact she asked the State Department to release her messages.

“I’m happy people are looking at the emails,” Clinton said. “Some of them are, you know, frankly a little embarrassing. You know, you find out that sometimes I’m not the best on technology and things like that, but look, I think it’s great. Let people sort them through and, as we have seen, there is a lot of, you know, a lot of interest.”

The State Department has been releasing the emails from Clinton’s server on a monthly basis. Clinton provided the messages to the agency after they were requested. The email releases have included Clinton discussing sensitive issues with her aides. They also contained mundane moments such as Clinton asking staffers what time different shows aired on television.

Critics have suggested Clinton’s use of a private account for official business could have been a violation of federal regulations and an attempt to avoid transparency. Chris Cuomo, who moderated the forum, brought up the issue when he noted the Des Moines Register newspaper criticized Clinton for her handling of the situation when it endorsed her on Monday. The paper’s editorial board suggested Clinton’s response to the issue shows she has not learned to admit mistakes. Clinton first publicly addressed the controversy in a press conference last March where she defiantly dismissed any concerns about her email usage and said she opted for a private account for both personal and official messages as a matter of “convenience.”

Though Clinton told Cuomo she should have addressed the situation “quicker,“ she did not admit to making any mistakes in her handling of the controversy.

“I’m not willing to say it was an error in judgement, because nothing that I did was wrong,” Clinton said. “It was not in any way prohibited.”

Clinton also argued she needed time to formulate a response.

“Part of the problem and I would just say this as not an excuse, but just as an explanation … when you’re facing something like that you got to get the facts and it takes time to get the facts,” Clinton said. “And so, when I said, ‘Hey, take all my emails, make them public,’ that had never been done before ever by anybody. And so we’ve been sorting our way through this because it is kind of a unique situation.”

Clinton’s comments at the forum clearly didn’t satisfy the Republican Party. In a statement released shortly after the event, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus blasted Clinton for not saying she made a mistake.

“Her refusal to admit her secret email server was a lapse in judgement will only add to Americans’ doubts about her honesty and trustworthiness. Voters aren’t looking for a politician who pretends the rules don’t apply to them, particularly when it comes to safekeeping classified material important to our national security,” Priebus said.

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Bill Clinton Stumps for Hillary in New Hampshire

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton stepped into the limelight Monday, making his first solo campaign appearance in wife Hillary’s 2016 bid for the White House, calling her the most qualified US presidential candidate in decades.

The 69-year-old former president went to in support of the former secretary of state, senator and first lady who leads national polls for the Democrats ahead of the state’s voting contest next month.

Popular among party faithful, Clinton is nonetheless still tainted by allegations of infidelity and sexual impropriety that his wife’s Republican rival, Donald Trump, has sought to exploit by calling him “fair game.”

On Monday, he addressed a rally at a community college in the city of Nashua, paying tribute to Hillary’s determination to make America a fairer, safer country for the poor and struggling middle classes.

“I do not believe in my lifetime anybody has run for this job in a moment of great importance who is better qualified by knowledge, experience and temperament to do what needs to be done,” he said.

New Hampshire hosts the nation’s first presidential primary on February 9.

Calling himself a “happy grandfather,” a relaxed Clinton said he thought Hillary was “the most amazing person” when they met and fell in love, 45 years ago at Yale Law School.

She could have won any job but wanted only to provide legal aid to the poor, said her husband, dressed in an open-necked shirt, dark pullover and blazer, wearing a Hillary pin on his lapel.

– ‘One of the great women abusers’ –

“Everything she touched, she made better,” he said, calling her a “change maker.”

“In an uncertain world, where borders look more like nets than walls, and no one is in total control, she understands what it takes to keep our country as safe as possible,” he added.

But Trump, the real estate tycoon who has led Republican polls for months, has blasted Bill Clinton’s “terrible record” with women an apparent allusion to his past alleged marital infidelities.

He stepped up his personal attacks on the Clintons on Monday, criticizing Hillary for calling him sexist.

“How can she do that when she’s got one of the great women abusers of all time sitting in her house, waiting for her to come home for dinner,” he said.

“The worst thing Hillary could do is have her husband campaign for her. Just watch,” he tweeted to his 5.5 million followers on Sunday.

Republicans in Congress tried but failed in 1998 to remove Bill Clinton from the White House for alleged perjury and obstruction during an investigation into an alleged affair.

On Sunday, Hillary Clinton was heckled by a Republican state representative in New Hampshire about her husband’s alleged sex scandals. “You are very rude,” she snapped back before addressing another audience member.

Her husband did not mention Trump during his 30-minute speech in Nashua, but warned that key gains in environmental and health care policy would be reversed if the country elects a Republican president.

“It’s kind of scary,” he said in reference to the campaign, urging supporters to take the candidates seriously. He later addressed another campaign event in Exeter, New Hampshire.

According to Real Clear Politics, Clinton trails her party rival, Bernie Sanders, by 44.7 to 49 percent of the Democrat vote in the state.

On Monday, she was in Iowa, hundreds of miles apart from her husband. “I think I can be the president America and Iowa needs, with your help,” she told supporters.

Trump on Monday unveiled his first TV ad of the campaign, fanning fresh controversy by incorporating footage of migrants fleeing Morocco into a Spanish enclave with a voice over talking about the Mexico-US border.

The 30-second ad will be broadcast from Tuesday, costing $2 million a week ahead of the first-in-the-nation voting contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

It spotlights his call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, pledge to crush the so-called Islamic State extremist group and promise to end illegal immigration from Mexico.

But a fact-checking website gave the ad a “Pants on Fire” rating, saying it uses footage, not from the Mexico-US border, but from Melilla, a small Spanish enclave across the Atlantic Ocean on Morocco’s coast.

 

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Lindsey Graham Ends Presidential Campaign

Lindsey GrahamRepublican Sen. Lindsey Graham ended his 2016 campaign for president Monday, saying he remains committed to working to achieve security for the American people and helping the GOP expand its base.

With just over a month to go until voting begins, the South Carolina senator, the only candidate from one of the four early voting states  posted a video telling supporters “we have run a campaign we can be proud of.” He noted his emphasis on national security and improving the nation’s balance sheet, saying he “put forth bold and practical solutions to big problems.”

In a taped interview broadcast later on CNN, the 60-year-old senator warned that the election is “not about 2016” but instead “an election for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.” He warned that the current GOP front-runner Donald Trump cannot defeat a Democrat like Hillary Clinton “without some major adjustments.”

Having mustered little support in the polls, Graham’s exit will not have an immediate effect on the race in the final stretch before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses and the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary. But his decision could produce a ripple effect in his home state, which follows New Hampshire with a Feb. 20 primary. Graham will likely be a highly sought-after endorsement for those still in the race, though he’s given no indication of who he would back.

By ending his campaign, Graham deprives the GOP field of perhaps its most aggressive military hawk, he said even before the June 1 launch of his campaign that more American servicemen and women “will die in Iraq and eventually in Syria to protect our homeland.” That was often a stark contrast to other candidates who joined Graham in blasting President Barack Obama as weak in his approach to Islamic State militants, yet hedged when it came to questions of ground forces.

Graham also takes with him a wry sense of humor that he showcased on the campaign trail and in debates, though he never did qualify for one of the prime-time sessions, and was instead relegated to the earlier undercard events. His solution to gridlock in Washington: “We’re going to drink more.” It was a lesson he attributed to his upbringing in the bar that his parents owned and to the political friendship between Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill.

When Trump gave out Graham’s cell phone number at a South Carolina campaign stop, Graham answered with a satirical video in which he attempts multiple times, to destroy his phone. Jabbing at Clinton over her use of a private server, he mocked his own computer illiteracy, saying he’s never sent an email at all.

Graham plunged into the contest highlighting his foreign affairs experience in the Senate and arguing that newcomers need not apply for a job that offers no chance for “on-the-job training.” At the time, anything was possible because the mob of GOP candidates had no clear leader. But over the summer, political neophytes like Trump and Ben Carson surged to the front of the pack and forced far better-known candidates, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to fight for support.

Urged to run by 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain, Graham never gained traction, failing even to qualify for an undercard debate in November.

An Air Force veteran and reservist, Graham has called Obama “a small-minded guy in big times.” After attacks on Paris killed 129 people, Graham pushed for an authorization of military force against the Islamic State that would allow the U.S. to attack the groups’ supporters anywhere, with no time limit.

But as he visited core GOP supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire, Graham did not abandon positions that separated him from the GOP’s conservative base. In New Hampshire, Graham defended his call for an immigration overhaul that includes both improvements in border security and a path to legal status for the millions of people living in the country illegally. “I am not going to give an inch on the idea,” he said.

Graham, a member of the conservative class that swept into control of the House in 1994 has, at times, joined Democrats on other high-profile votes. In October 2013, he voted for a deal that ended a partial government shutdown and raised the nation’s borrowing limit.

He has panned conservatives who have been willing to let the government shut down if their demands aren’t met, saying: “We’re a right-of-center nation. We’re not a right-ditch nation.” Graham also supported both of Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court. “Elections have consequences,” he explained.

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Donald Trump Takes Commanding Lead Over GOP Field Nationally – Bush Sinks

Trump MAGAOver a third of registered Republican and Republican-leaning voters would vote for Donald Trump, a massive lead over the rest of the GOP field, according to a new poll released Friday.

The CNN/ORC survey shows Trump’s campaign muscle: He has 36 percent of support among poll respondents, 20 points ahead of his nearest competitor. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, in second place, trails Trump with 16 percent of those surveyed favouring him. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson comes in at 14 percent, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 12 percent. No other candidate breaks a 5 percent threshold.

Since the last CNN/ORC poll in October, some candidates have seen a steep decline in national support. Carson lost 8 points from the previous survey, when he had registered in second place. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is down 5 points to 3 percent, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is down 4 points to 1 percent of support.

The real estate mogul also dominates when it comes to issues voters identify as most important to them. Survey respondents said Trump was best qualified to handle the economy at an overwhelming 55 percent (Cruz is next with 9 percent), along with illegal immigration, ISIS threats, foreign policy, and the federal budget.

A majority of Republican voters (52 percent) also point to Trump as the GOP hopeful with the best chances to win November’s general election. Fifteen percent believe that of Rubio, 11 percent for Cruz, and 10 percent for Carson.

The poll was taken before Wednesday’s San Bernardino shooting, from November 27 – December 1, 2015. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is running neck-and-neck against five of the top Republican presidential candidates, Clinton has a slight edge against the leading two GOP candidates, businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who took the top two slots in the GOP pack.

Clinton leads Trump by 3 points with 49% support and tops Cruz by the same margin with 50%, within the poll’s plus or minus 3-percentage point margin of error, according to the CNN/ORC poll that pitted Clinton against five top Republican contenders.

Democrats face a tougher presidential contest when Clinton is pitted against Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Carson leads Clinton by three points while Rubio and Bush are locked in a dead heat with the former secretary of state.

Rubio takes 49% to Clinton’s 48% of support while Bush has 47% of support to Clinton’s 49%, among the 930 registered voters surveyed in the CNN/ORC poll.

Clinton prevails by wide margins among women against all five Republicans tested, with her widest margin topping out at 15 percentage points when matched against both Trump and Cruz.

Rubio comes closest to closing that gap, trailing Clinton by 9 points among women.

 

 

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Presidential Hopefuls Knock Obama and Trump at Republican Jewish Coalition

R J CA gathering of GOP presidential candidates before major donors on Thursday prompted predictable condemnations of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy and a surprise bill of attainder against the Republican Party.

In an appearance before the Republican Jewish Coalition forum in Washington, billionaire Donald Trump predicted that “you are not going to support me because I don’t want your money even though I’m the best thing that could ever happen to Israel” as he gave a stump speech filled with insults about his rivals that had the audience at times laughing like a crowd at a comedy club. “I’m gonna win,” said Trump, who bragged about coining the term “low energy” for competitor Jeb Bush. He seemed to be preparing a similar line against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

“She doesn’t have the strength or the energy to support Israel,” Trump said, contending that Clinton disappears from the campaign trail for three or four days at a time. The former secretary of state is appearing Thursday in New Hampshire, during a week of public appearances that has taken her to Washington, Alabama, and Florida. On Friday, Clinton will make two appearances in Iowa.

Trump’s rivals at the RJC forum spent the bulk of the day vying for the title of most pro-Israel, though New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie turned the audience’s attention to the killings in San Bernardino, California by late afternoon.

“For the first time since 9/11, I think we’re going to have to confront the loss of Americans lives on American soil to terrorism,” Christie said. “I am convinced that was a terrorist attack,” he continued, saying, “the president continues to ring his hands.”

Senator Ted Cruz compared President Barack Obama to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and former President Jimmy Carter; Senator Marco Rubio accused Obama of trying to use “diplomacy and engagement” with “people who have an apocalyptic vision of the future”; and Senator Lindsey Graham said he was throwing out his prepared remarks on the Middle East to warn that his competitors’ views on immigration and social issues are jeopardizing the Republican Party’s chances of taking back the White House.

“I believe Donald Trump is destroying the Republican Party’s chances to win an election,” said Graham of the Republican front-runner, who spoke later. In an apparent reference to Trump’s frequent vows to deport undocumented immigrants and build a wall along the Mexican border, the South Carolina senator called for an end to “hateful rhetoric” against Hispanics. Graham criticized 2012 nominee Mitt Romney for endorsing the concept of “self-deportation,” which holds that undocumented immigrants will return to their native countries if laws against them are tough enough.

“You think you’re going to win an election with that kind of garbage?” Graham asked. Referring to the common phenomenon of American-born citizens with parents in the U.S. illegally, Graham asked, “Is the Marine Corps American citizen going to vote for a party that’s going to deport his mother? I don’t think so.”

Graham also took aim at Cruz, saying the Texas senator’s no-exceptions position on banning abortion will cost the party voters. “Telling a woman who was raped you will have to carry the child of the rapist? Good luck with that,” Graham said. “We will lose in droves.”

Among the other candidates who spoke, most stuck to foreign policy, especially as it pertains to Israel.

Cruz called Obama “an unmitigated socialist who won’t stand up and defend the United States of America,” likening the president’s “feckless foreign policy” to that of Chamberlain, who infamously accommodated Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in a futile attempt to avert World War II. He criticized the president’s nuclear deal with Iran and accused him of ignoring “the gathering storm of homicidal maniacs who tell us they want to kill us.” He repeated his criticism of the president for not inveighing against “radical Islamic terrorism.”

In another proposal that won applause from his audience, the Texas lawmaker said that if he is elected president, he will cut off federal funding for any university supporting the BDS movement, a pro-Palestinian effort to back “boycotts, divestment, and sanctions” against Israel.

Rubio ducked a question about whom he might tap to be his secretary of state, saying it is “premature,” and dismissed the idea of negotiating with Palestinians. “Israel has no partner for peace in this conflict,” he said. But unlike some conservatives, he also dismissed the idea of maintaining Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power to counter the Islamic State, calling it a “simplistic notion” that ignores Assad’s role in the region. Rubio called the Syrian dictator “an Iranian puppet” who has “actively facilitated anti-Israel and anti-American terrorism.”

Ohio Governor John Kasich, a former member of the U.S. House who has been emphasizing his years in government in his bid for the Republican nomination, seemed to criticize some of his competitors for intemperate rhetoric on Iran. “If you’re inexperienced, you say ‘I’d go and blow the place up,’” Kasich said. “Executives have to be tough and calm and decisive.”

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has received criticism about his grasp of foreign policy, broke from his off-the-cuff style to read from a prepared speech so he didn’t “miss any points” he wanted to make. Looking down at his notes for much of the time, Carson spoke about the history of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the need to address a long list of issues in the Middle East, and his recent trip to Jordan to visit Syrian refugees. A few times during the speech, Carson appeared to mispronounce “Hamas,” the name of the Palestinian political party and terror group, prompting a response from RJC board member Ari Fleischer on Twitter: “Poor Ben Carson. … He sounds like he’s not familiar with the group.”

Fourteen Republican presidential contenders were set to address the group, which includes a number of active donors. For the candidates, the stakes are high as they make their pitches to more than 600 attendees.

The gathering took place amid signs that the party establishment is growing concerned about the continuing lead of the controversy-cultivating Trump for the party’s nomination. Trump told attendees at a rally in nearby Virginia on Wednesday that he plans to visit Israel “very soon.” Trump in his speech emphasized his ties to the Jewish state, saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “asked me to do a commercial” during his last campaign for re-election. “I think our president has been unbelievably rude to Bibi,” said Trump, referring to the rocky relations between Obama and the Israeli leader. The audience applauded that remark.

Trump got briefly heckled, however, when he ducked a question about whether he’d recognize Jerusalem, a city claimed by three religions, as the capital of Israel. “You can’t go in to do a deal and just shove it down their throat,” he said.

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