Jeb Bush, fellow GOP candidates rush to distance themselves from Donald Trump

Opposition to his remarks describing illegal immigrants as 'rapists' and 'killers' is mounting within his own party, but Donald Trump’s candidacy remains 'viable.'

Arnulfo Franco/AP/File
Tycoon Donald Trump attends the inauguration ceremony of the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City, July 6, 2011. The Miss Panama Organization and the Telemetro television channel say they won’t participate in or broadcast the Miss Universe contest partly owned by Trump, joining several other Latin American nations in dropping out of the pageant in protest over his comments about Mexican immigrants.

The crowded and ideologically diverse field of Republican presidential candidates has found one thing they mostly agree on: Donald Trump does not speak for the majority of Republicans.

Candidate after candidate used appearances on Sunday talk shows to denounce Mr. Trump and distance themselves from him after the billionaire real estate mogul criticized Mexicans and immigrants who come to the US illegally as “rapists” and “killers.”

“They’re bringing drugs,” Trump said while announcing his presidential bid last month. “They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Former New York Gov. George Pataki was the first GOP candidate to denounce Trump, first in a tweet and later in a press release, describing the remarks as “sad and divisive.”

Mr. Pataki also launched a petition on his campaign website – called “Stand Up to Trump” – asking petitioners to denounce the business mogul's remarks.

GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor who has a Mexican wife, told the Associate Press he is personally offended by Trump’s remarks.

“I don’t think he represents the Republican Party, and his views are way out of the mainstream of what Republicans think,” he told reporters after marching in Fourth of July parades in New Hampshire.

And other Republican candidates are now following suit.

US Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called the comments “not just offensive and inaccurate, but also divisive," in a statement released last Friday.

“Our next president needs to be someone who brings Americans together,” wrote Senator Rubio. “Our broken immigration system is something that needs to be solved, and comments like this move us further from – not closer to – a solution.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that, while some immigrants may have “nefarious goals,” most of them come to the country for the opportunity to be Americans.

“I’m for reasonable approaches to immigration,” said Mr. Huckabee. “I say some things very differently. I say every night, I get on my knees and thank God I’m in a country people are trying to break into, rather than one they’re trying to break out of.”

Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate, said on CBS’ “Face of the Nation” that he disagreed with Trump’s “verbiage.”

“While I don’t like the verbiage he’s used, I like the fact that he is focused on a very important issue for American workers and particularly, legal immigrants in this country,” said Mr. Santorum. “I think Donald points to a very important thing,” he added, “which is we have a serious problem of illegal immigration in this country that is undermining American workers: by flattening out wages and lowering the standard of living for those in the US legally.”

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said that Trump “does not represent the Republican Party” and doesn’t understand southern border issues.

Some candidates have come out in support of Trump, however, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Sen. Cruz appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in an interview that aired on Sunday, saying: “I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration.”

“The Washington cartel doesn’t want to address that. The Washington cartel doesn’t believe we need to secure our borders,” he added. “The Washington cartel supports amnesty and I think amnesty’s wrong, and I salute Donald Trump for focusing on it. He has a colorful way of speaking. It’s not the way I speak, but I’m not going to engage in the media’s game of throwing rocks and attacking other Republicans. I’m just not going to do it.”

Businesses have already fled from Trump after his comments, including NBC Universal, Univision, and Macy’s. Political strategists believe he is turning into a political liability, however, Trump continues to do surprisingly well in polls.

Harry Wilson, a professor of public affairs and director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, told the Monitor last week that in an overflowing Republican field (there are now almost 20 candidates) Trump’s name recognition is helping him stand out.

“Americans are, quite understandably, not fixated on the 2016 Presidential election yet. So, the name currently in the news will garner support in the short run,” said Professor Wilson. “Donald Trump has strong name recognition and the ability to self-finance his campaign indefinitely. Those qualities makes him viable."

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