Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, held a town hall meeting Wednesday evening in New Hampshire at the same time and only a few miles from a town meeting held by former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, who is also seeking the GOP nod. Trump got the bigger audience–1,000 in a jammed high school auditorium with hundreds more in overflow rooms, compared to Bush’s estimated 150 at a military veterans’ hall.
Trump had a decisive edge in enthusiasm with an engaged and appreciative crowd compared to Bush’s respectful but unemotional listeners. And Trump dominated the news coverage, with even liberal-leaning MSNBC carrying his session live.
Trump, as usual, had the best one-liners. He told his town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire, that Bush is a “low energy person” who has difficulty getting things done, and added: “You know what’s happening to Jeb’s crowd [in nearby Merrimack]? They’re sleeping.” He said Bush is going “down like a rock” in New Hampshire polls, and told reporters that Bush is unelectable.
For his part, Bush said Trump is actually a Democrat who would raise taxes. “I think what people are eventually going to vote for is a proven conservative leader that’s done it,” the former governor said.
Bush pointed out that Trump has a history of contributing to Democrats and changing his position on issues, noting that Trump once supported a single-payer health care system that is anathema to many conservatives.
“He’s won over a lot of people,” Bush said. “People are very angry about how Washington’s not working. He’s tapped into that. But when people look at his record, it is not a conservative record.” He said Trump’s immigration plan, which calls for massive deportations of people who entered the United State illegally and building a wall between the United States and Mexico, is not conservative because it would cost tens of billions of dollars.
But Trump said Bush and other contenders for the GOP nomination are beholden to big contributors. “I’ve dealt with them all my life….the people that are putting up that money,” Trump said, adding that other candidates are “like puppets…They’re totally controlled by special interests, lobbyists and donors.”
“With me, I don’t need anybody’s money,” the real estate developer and billionaire declared. “I don’t want anybody’s money.” Trump said he is extremely rich and successful, and he wants everyone to know it.
“We need somebody with that mentality to straighten out our country,” he said. “We can’t have, we just can’t have these people who don’t know what they’re doing.”