Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump opened up a line of attack Saturday on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, accusing the leader in recent polls in Iowa of running his neighboring state into financial trouble. It’s the latest broadside against a rival of the outspoken New York billionaire. Last week, Trump went after South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham for calling him a “jackass.” The New York businessman has characterized other candidates as unfit for the office and said the party’s 2008 nominee, Sen. John McCain, was not a war hero in spite of his years as a prisoner in Vietnam.
Spurred on by a raucous audience of more than 1,000 at a central Iowa high school, Trump said Walker has an advantage in Iowa because he’s from a neighboring state but that the edge is undeserved because Walker has mismanaged Wisconsin’s budget.
“He grew up right next door. A little advantage, right?” Trump said. “Except Wisconsin is doing terribly.”
Trump faulted Walker, popular for stripping public employees of many of their collective bargaining rights, for falling short of budget projections and changing his position on Common Core education standards. The voluntary state-based benchmarks for achievement in math, reading and language arts are unpopular among a segment of conservatives who view them, if incorrectly, as a federally mandated curriculum.
Walker showed tacit support for the standards during his first term when he signed budgets that paid for implementing them. Last year, he called for their repeal and replacement with standards set in Wisconsin.
“He was totally in favor of Common Core, which I hate, I hate,” Trump said. Walker changed course on the topic, his rival said, when he saw “he was getting creamed.”
Trump said Walker deserved the criticism because a top fundraiser to the governor referred to Trump in a recent fundraising email as “Dumb dumb.”
Of course, there were far worse things Trump could have called Walker out on, including chairing a scandal-plagued job-creation agency that loaned millions to the governor’s cronies and never repaid the state or created jobs. The agency lost track of millions of taxpayer dollars at the agency.
Then there was the governor’s failure to meet his avowed goal of creating 250,000 jobs in the state. Not only has he fallen far short of that promise, but the state has ranked among the lowest in the nation for job creation.
And there was the last-minute insertion of a proposal into the 2015-17 budget that would have allowed Wisconsin public officials to ignore Freedom of Information requests from the public and the media, making the state’s government the least transparent in the nation. Walker tried to hide his involvement in that scheme.
As politically savvy Wisconsinites know, the list of Walker’s failures and scandals goes on and on, leaving them to wonder how he’ll manage to keep his shabby and divisive record as governor out of the national media spotlight.
Walker is not alone on Trump’s get-even list. The real estate mogul has constantly attacked GOP candidates who’ve criticized him — something that has party officials cringing but voters mesmerized. The TV reality star has brought an unanticipated element of entertainment to the Republican presidential race.
Trump criticized Graham, a close friend of McCain, after Graham chided Trump for faulting McCain for being shot down as a Navy fighter pilot during the Vietnam War. McCain, held as a prisoner of war for five years, was heralded by Republicans as a war hero during his 2008 campaign.
“I’m very disappointed in him for one reason. He’s done a bad job with the vets,” said Trump, who has sharply criticized Congress for inaction on calls for improvements for services under the Department of Veterans Affairs.
While Graham and other GOP presidential candidates have sharply criticized Trump for his comments about McCain, Trump held up a stack of paper during his Iowa speech that he said were letters of support he’d received from veterans.
Before Trump arrived at the event, hundreds lined the sidewalk in front of the high school. At the end was a catered picnic lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, chips and cold drinks.
Standing in the 90-degree sun, Jill Jepsen held a sign that said, “The Beltway talks, Trump works!”
“He works, and he doesn’t back down,” said Jepsen, a political independent from Oskaloosa. “He’ll get things done.”
At the National Governors Association meeting in West Virginia, two Republicans gave Trump’s campaign little chance of succeeding.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think (Trump) will do very well in Iowa because Iowans like leaders who are humble and hardworking, and people who go to all parts of the state,” Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said when asked about the reality TV star.
Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, said she didn’t think Trump would be the next president “because I think the people of our nation want to see someone who will be able to bring people together to get things done.”
Asked about Trump, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said: “You see some outspoken people who jump up in the polls, but then they also falter very quick. It’ll be interesting to see if that same dynamic occurs.”
Not one to suffer criticism silently, Trump denied press credentials for Saturday’s event to reporters at The Des Moines Register after the newspaper published an editorial calling him a “feckless blowhard” who is “unfit to hold office” and saying that he should leave the race.
Register editor Amalie Nash said Friday that the paper’s editorial board is independent of its news reporters and editors.