Lindsey Graham: GOP must reject ‘demagogue’ Donald Trump or party will ‘deserve to lose’
South Carolina senator calls the business mogul a ‘wrecking ball’ and warns if Republicans don’t challenge views on immigration they deserve to lose
The Republican party must reject Donald Trump’s views on immigration as those of a “demagogue” and a “wrecking ball”, a competing candidate for the GOP presidential nomination said on Sunday, or it will face losing “the moral authority to govern”.
On Friday and Saturday Trump, the business mogul and reality TV star who has refused to back down on controversial comments about Mexico and illegal immigrants to the US that have cost him international condemnation and a series of business relationships, spoke to crowds in Los Angeles , Las Vegas and Phoenix.
In Arizona, in an hour-long, extemporised speech to thousands in a convention centre , he said: “This has become a movement. The silent majority is back, and we’re going to take our country back … the word is getting out that we have to stop illegal immigration.”
On Sunday, South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham responded by saying: “We have to reject this demagogue. If we don’t we will lose and we will deserve to lose.”
Graham lags some way behind Trump in polls of the 14-strong Republican field – as the first debate approaches, in Cleveland on 6 August, Trump is maintaining second place behind frontrunner Jeb Bush. Only the top 10 candidates will participate in the first debate.
Appearing on CNN, Graham cited lessons from the party’s defeat by Barack Obama in 2012 and said: “I’m very worried about where we’re headed as a party. I don’t think this is how you get the latino vote.”
Graham said if the party did not reject Trump’s ideas immigration as a whole, “we’ll have lost the moral authority to govern this great nation”.
He added: “After 10 years of working on illegal immigrants, I’ve come to conclude that most illegal immigrants are decent, hardworking people.”
Trump’s stance had created a “defining moment” for all Republican presidential candidates, Graham said, calling on all of them – as well as Reince Preibus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee who this week called Trump, fruitlessly, to ask him to tone down his rhetoric – to reject his ideas.
Reaction among Republican candidates has varied, from support expressed by Texas senator Ted Cruz to condemnation from Bush and Florida senator Marco Rubio. Graham said he thought some candidates approved of Trump’s comments and even considered him vice-presidential material.
But, he said, “I think he’s a wrecking ball for the future of the Republican party with the hispanic community and we need to push back. We can’t worry about what Donald Trump might do, we have to focus as a party on what we should do.”
The Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, also spoke to CNN. Asked about Trump, she said: “I’m very disappointed in those comments. I feel very bad and very disappointed with him and with the Republican party for not responding immediately and saying ‘Enough, stop it’.
“But you know they are all in the same general area on immigration. They don’t want to provide a path to citizenship. They range across a spectrum of being either grudgingly welcome or hostile towards immigrants, and I’m going to talk about comprehensive immigration reform.”
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