Republican presidential candidate and billionaire businessman Donald Trump attacked Florida Gov. Jeb Bush Saturday night during the Republican debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, for his acceptance of millions of dollars on the campaign trail from big money donors. In doing so, Trump sounded quite a bit like a potential future opponent in the general election should they both win the nomination: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
In the debate, Trump repeatedly said that people booing him for his attacks on Bush were simply the former governor’s donors and special interest groups hoping to influence a potential Bush president with their cash. It sounded a lot like a common criticism that Sanders has leveled against his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who he says is beholden to the financial industry.
A super political action committee (PAC) backing Bush’s campaign has raised over $118 million to do things like run attack ads on his opponents, including over $34 million from the financial industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Trump, with his massive personal wealth, is self-funding his campaign and regularly touts that fact on the campaign trail, saying that he can’t be bought by money.
New Hampshire will hold its primary election Tuesday.
Trump’s appearance on the debate stage Saturday comes after blowing off the final debate before the Iowa caucuses, which were held Monday. Those caucuses did not play out how he had hoped they would and he ultimately took second place behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. He was followed closely by Rubio, who outperformed the expectations created by pre-caucus polling.
Still, in spite of that second place finish, Trump maintains his front-runner status in the Republican nominating field. He maintains a healthy lead in averages of national polls, beating Cruz by 12.5 percent with 33.2 percent of the vote, according to Real Clear Politics. Cruz’s 20.7 percent second place showing is followed next by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who gets 13.3 percent of the vote. Bush is in fifth place with 4.5 percent support in the country.
Trump is the polling leader in New Hampshire, as well. In the Granite State, the billionaire rakes in 30.7 percent of the vote. Rubio, in second place, now takes in 16.4 percent of the likely GOP polls. That’s a steep jump for the Floridian since before the Iowa caucuses, when he was in fifth place with 9.5 percent support. Going into the debate, Cruz was tied for third place in New Hampshire with 12 percent support, alongside Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Bush is in fifth place there with 9.1 percent of the vote.