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Donald Trump Shows No Signs Of Backing Down After McCain Comments


Donald Trump is still running for president. Many in the GOP establishment thought they had a chance to get him out of the race. There was a huge backlash over his criticism of Senator John McCain's status as a war hero. Instead, Trump was back on the campaign trail today with a stop in South Carolina. And as reporter Sarah McCammon heard, Trump is showing no signs of backing down.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: As soon as he took the stage, Trump made it clear he was going to speak his mind. He said he doesn't use teleprompters.


DONALD TRUMP: They're too easy. Other people use teleprompters. Maybe when you run for president, you shouldn't be allowed to use a teleprompter because you find out what you're getting. Does that make sense?


MCCAMMON: Trump told the crowd of hundreds of retirees near Hilton Head Island that what they're getting is a savvy businessman who knows how to outsmart the competition.


TRUMP: I am so tired of politicians. Nobody knows them better than me. If you can't get rich dealing with politicians, there's something wrong with you.

MCCAMMON: He repeatedly touted his wealth, his social media prowess...


TRUMP: You know, I have many millions between Facebook and Twitter. It's great. It's like owning a newspaper without the losses. It's incredible.


TRUMP: Incredible.

MCCAMMON: ...And his strength in national polls of likely Republican voters. Trump shifted away from his criticism of McCain and instead took on several of his opponents in the GOP presidential contest.


TRUMP: And then I see Rick Perry the other day, and he's so - you know, he's doing very poorly in the polls. He put glasses on so people will think he's smart.


TRUMP: And it just doesn't work. You know, people can see through the glasses.

MCCAMMON: But the gloves really came off for South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of John McCain who had this to say on CNN about Trump.


LINDSEY GRAHAM: That he's a jackass.

MCCAMMON: Trump mocked Graham, calling him a lightweight.


TRUMP: Here's a guy - in the private sector, he couldn't get a job. Believe me. He couldn't get a job. He couldn't do what you people did. You're all retired as hell and rich, OK? He wouldn't be rich. He'd be poor.

MCCAMMON: And he didn't stop there. Trump recalled how a few years ago, Graham called him to ask for a favor - a good word with his contacts at the TV show "Fox & Friends."


TRUMP: You know, I'm saying to myself, what's this guy, a beggar? He's, like, begging me to help him with "Fox & Friends." So I say, OK and, I'll mention your name. He said could you mention my name? I said yes, I'll - and he gave me his number. And I found the card. I wrote the number down. I don't know if it's the right number. Let's try it - 202...

MCCAMMON: And Graham's phone apparently blew up.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The mailbox is full and cannot accept any messages at this time. Goodbye.

MCCAMMON: Graham seemed to take Trump's insult in stride. He tweeted, probably getting a new phone - iPhone or Android? For over 40 minutes, Trump rambled at times and wove in familiar talking points, his concerns about illegal immigration and his success in entertainment and real estate. He suggested that would have translated well in recent negotiations with Iran over a nuclear deal.


TRUMP: We should have doubled up the sanctions, sat back for about three months and let them call us. And believe me, I would have made one hell of a deal. That one's easy.


MCCAMMON: Trump ended the speech with a salute that was reminiscent of Richard Nixon - arms in the air flashing V for victory signs.


MCCAMMON: In the crowd was Mary Hubbs, a retired Colonel from the Army Nurse Corps. And she liked what she heard. This veteran wasn't bothered by Trump's comments about McCain's military service or Trump's general tendency to make controversial statements.

MARY HUBBS: Some of them maybe needs to be said. A lot of people think some of those things, and they don't say it. And I think he's a doer and not just a speaker about it.

MCCAMMON: Not everyone was pleased to see Trump. About 50 protesters stood outside, holding signs with sayings like stop spreading hatred and Donald, you're fired. But with hundreds more showing up to support Trump and his big fortune to fall back on, it seems unlikely he'll be going away anytime soon. For NPR News, I'm Sarah McCammon in Bluffton, S.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
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