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“Good morning, Darling,” Donald Trump greeted one of the anchors of Morning Joe, calling into the first of the morning news shows to discuss last night’s debate.
Among the points he hit hard on Morning Joe, Today and Good Morning America: his growing lead, his winning debate performance, his similarity to Ronald Reagan, his desire to run as a Republican despite maintaining the “leverage” of a possible run as an independent, and his zinger about Rosie O’Donnell.
On Morning Joe, Trump also highlighted his outsider status — that he is not a career politician and that this quality is at the root of his appeal to voters: “There’s a lot of love for what I’m saying. People are really fed up with politicians. They’re really fed up with stupidity and incompetence.”
Despite his contempt for politics, Trump was gracious in his assessment of his fellow candidates and expressed that he had thoroughly enjoyed the evening of the debate, telling Savannah Guthrie on Today, “It was an unbelievable evening. Some of the contestants I met — some of the folks I met were just fantastic. You know, we just had a great evening.”
Guthrie pressed him on his stand that he would consider a run as an independent if he doesn’t earn the republican nomination. “Is it more important that the Republican party treats you well or that they win back the Whitehouse?” she asked. “Because everyone who looks at this thinks an independent run means a democrat keeps the Whitehouse.”
Trump responded: “A lot of people want me to run as an independent, but I don’t want to do that. I’m way out in front … and I’m getting a lot of respect from the leaders of the Republican party. I don’t want to do the independent thing, but it is leverage … and there are some very positive things about keeping it [as an option].”
Guthrie also asked Trump about his past donations to Democratic candidates including Hillary Clinton. Trump told her that “as a businessman, you donate to everyone,” and then suggested that campaign finance reform is essential to fixing the political system: “That’s a real fault of this country, because when you contribute, two years later – 3 years later, when you need help, they help you. When you don’t contribute, they don’t help you. That’s a sad fact about this country and something that needs to be rectified in one way or another.”
On Good Morning America, George Stephanopolous asked the candidate if he felt the questions directed at him were unfair.
“I guess that’s part of the game,” Trump, 69, said, “When you’re number one in the polls, I guess that what happens.”
He added that he gave “full answers” on the topics that he’s been accused of flip-flopping on — his past support of a single-payer health care system and abortion.
“I mean, Ronald Reagan was a Democrat and he became a Republican,” he said. “You grow and you evolve and that’s what happened with me and that’s what happens with most people on that stage.”
“Did you see anyone up on stage last night who you could support?” asked Stephanopolous.
“Oh, absolutely,” said Trump. “I don’t want to mention names but there were several people. I have a lot of respect for a lot of people on that stage.”
When asked on both Today and GMA if he has a “woman problem,” Trump highlighted the success of The Apprentice, saying that its audience was heavily female. He also pointed to the success of the moment when he dropped Rosie O’Donnell’s name — joking that he hadn’t called women derogatory names in the past, “only O’Donnell.”
“That got huge applause, the biggest of the night, I think,” he told Stephanopolous. “I mean, that was a startling noise in that arena.”
Finally, Trump mused on the success of the debate in general, pointing out, “That was a pretty heated deal,” Trump said of the two-hour-plus debate. “I guess they said it would be record stuff, record type of ratings.”
“I wonder what the ratings would have been if I wasn’t in the mix,” he added.
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