WASHINGTON — Republican front-runner Donald Trump on Sunday dismissed reports of a riot outside his rally in California, pressing ahead with his claim that Democrat Hillary Clinton is only in the presidential race because she’s a woman. And he said Clinton rival Bernie Sanders, who had questioned her qualifications, is going to help him.
“Bernie Sanders, what he said was a lot worse than what I said and I’m going to use that. We’ll have that teed up,” Trump said on “Fox News Sunday.” Sanders questioned Clinton’s qualifications for being president and later retreated from those remarks. Nonetheless, Trump said, “It’s a sound bite.”
The change of subject reflects Trump’s conviction that the race for the Republican presidential nomination is essentially “over,” with GOP rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich unable to catch up to Trump’s delegate haul – but Trump himself is short of the 1,237 delegates required to clinch the nomination. Win or lose the Indiana primary Tuesday, Trump is relentlessly focused on a general election matchup against Clinton. He previewed it as a six-month clash that could be focused substantially on gender politics and personal details. Clinton has said she “couldn’t care less” what Trump says about her.
Even as he focused on the general election, Trump was among the candidates courting Indiana voters Sunday ahead of the state’s vote with 57 GOP delegates at stake. Clinton, too, was speaking there. The other candidates were facing questions about why they’re still running.
“It’s difficult, it’s not impossible,” Sanders said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” of his increasingly bleak challenge to Clinton.
Cruz wasn’t surrendering to the delegate math, even after a tough week in which former House Speaker John Boehner called him “Lucifer in the flesh” and “a miserable son of a bitch.” Cruz pointed out on several shows that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and former California Gov. Pete Wilson have endorsed him and that Trump can’t get a majority of Republicans to back him.
“We’re going the distance,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” ”We’re going into Cleveland, and it will be a contested convention.”
But Trump continued to dominate the conversation Sunday. On ABC, the first question posed to former CIA director and defense secretary Robert Gates was about what a Trump candidacy would mean for the nation’s national security.
“I think based on the speech you’d have somebody who doesn’t understand the difference between a business negotiation and a negotiation with sovereign powers,” Gates, who has worked for both Republican and Democratic presidents, replied. “He doesn’t understand that there’s a give-and-take in international relations that is different than in the business community.”
On CBS, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has endorsed Cruz even though he has said he loathes the Texas senator, said Trump’s foreign policy amounts to “isolationism. It will lead to another 9/11.”
Graham added on CBS: “Hillary Clinton is an incredibly flawed candidate, but she will mop the floor with Donald Trump.”