Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has tapped into a deep anger among voters — especially those in the working class — upset about the economy, fearful of terrorism and fed up with the political culture, rivals said Sunday. Trump, who has made numerous outrageous, divisive and false statements since he announced his campaign during the summer, has twice the support of his nearest rival for the GOP nomination in an average of national polls.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, and Republicans Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich weighed in on the real estate mogul's appeal during Sunday morning talk shows, saying Americans are fed up and looking for real solutions to the nation's problems.
Sanders, in appearances on NBC's "Meet the Press" and CBS's "Face the Nation" hammered at his favorite campaign themes of economic inequality and climate change, saying at the end of the day, "we want to defeat right-wing extremism." Sanders called Trump "divisive," adding on "Meet the Press," "That's not the kind of America we need."
"What Trump has done with some success is taken that anger, taken those fears which are legitimate and converted them into anger against Mexicans, anger against Muslims, and in my view that is not the way we're going to address the major problems facing our country," he said on "Face the Nation."
.@BernieSanders-who blew his campaign when he gave Hillary a pass on her e-mail crime, said that I feel wages in America are too high. Lie!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 27, 2015
Huckabee, a minister, told "Fox News Sunday" part of Trump's success is a result of the media coverage every time he says something outrageous. Huckabee said the real estate mogul received "25 times more attention than the other Republican candidates combined" after he proposed banning Muslims from the United States.
Huckabee said working-class Americans are tired of seeing a "handful of people get richer and richer" while they work "harder and harder and get nothing for it."
"People are incredibly angry, understandably so," Huckabee said.
Kasich said on ABC's "This Week" Trump's statements "resonate with people," tapping into fears of job loss, debt and the feeling that the system is rigged against them.
"Trump has touched on something," Kasich said. "I can understand."
The Ohio governor said Trump's plan to ship undocumented immigrants from Mexico back south is "ridiculous," adding the party "is not for deporting 11.5 million people."
As to Trump's divisiveness, Kasich said the billionaire has been toning down his rhetoric. "Going forward, he's going to be a unifier," Kasich said.
Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, said people shouldn't mistake bluster for strength and urged voters to look at the candidates' lives to determine who would make the better leader.
"Our country is on the precipice and about to go over the edge," Carson said on "Face the Nation."
Trump is the clear leader on the Republican side in a Real Clear Politics average of national polling data, although he is lagging in Iowa. The latest polls shows Trump with 36.5 percent support, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz with 17.8 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio with 11.3 percent and Carson with 9.3 percent. Kasich is polling at 2 percent, followed by Huckabee with 1.8 percent.
Kasich and Huckabee shrugged off the polling numbers, saying they'll wait to decide whether to stay in the race until the results in from the Iowa cacuses and New Hampshire primary in February.