MILWAUKEE, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said during a town hall broadcast Sunday night he believes the clarification he issued after controversial comments about abortion was “well accepted.”
Trump sparked a firestorm during a similar town hall event last week when he said women who seek illegal abortions should be punished. His campaign put out a statement later that day walking back the comments, saying only those who perform illegal abortions should be penalized, not the women.
Asked about it by Fox News host Greta Van Susteren on Sunday, Trump addressed the controversy directly.
“I took that answer and I didn’t like it because a lot of people didn’t understand it. Women go through a lot. They go through a tremendous punishment of themselves,” Trump said. “So I clarified it, and I think the clarification was well accepted.”
The town hall comes two days before the crucial Wisconsin primary. Trump’s standing in the state has slipped amid a string of controversies surrounding his campaign over the last week. Polls now show his opponent, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, is ahead by double digits in advance of Tuesday’s vote.
Trump was also asked about the “tone and tenor” of the campaign so far. The question came hours after Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus appeared on several of the Sunday news shows, saying he was concerned about how the deeply personal attacks that have defined the Republican campaign so far are appearing to voters.
Asked whether he expects any of the GOP rivals who he’s attacked — particularly Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio — would endorse him if he wins the nomination, Trump brushed off the possibility.
“I don’t know,” Trump said. “I’m a realist, I understand. I’m not a huge believer in endorsements. I hit them very hard. They hit me very hard. If they don’t feel like it, they don’t have to.”
Throughout the evening, Trump took questions from Wisconsin Republican voters, many of whom were still undecided, on a wide variety of topics.
Here were a handful of Trump’s remarks:
— On health care and the Affordable Care Act: “[We’re seeing] 35, 45, 55 percent increase in premiums. Unless you’re just about ready to [die], you’re never going to be able to use it. … Plus, in Obamacare, you’re getting things you’ll never use. … I took a lot of heat from the Republicans when I said this. I said ‘nobody is going to be dying on the street if I’m president.’ … When people can’t afford it, we’re going to help them out.”
— On his social media presence: “With Twitter, it’s like owning my own newspaper. That’s like owning the New York Times without the losses. Why should I give it up? As president, I would take it differently. I wouldn’t be doing it too much … maybe not be doing it at all. I have millions and millions of people, and they love it.”
— On his abortion stance: “I am pro-life, period. With the exceptions, life of the mother, rape, incest. That’s Ronald Reagan. That’s been me for quite a period of time.”
— On taxes: “We’re giving the biggest tax decrease of any candidate running, or has run. It’s not even close. Our middle class has been run out of town, run out of the country, and on top of that we’re the highest taxed. We’re not only cutting it substantially, we’re simplifying it. You’re not going to have to go out and hire these firms and pay them a fortune, H&R Block, because you can’t understand it.”
— On the minimum wage: “We are a noncompetitive country. … If you start raising the minimum wage you’re going to start making a lot of our companies even less competitive and it’s going to be a big, big problem.”
— On student loans: “You know there’s no such thing as free education because somebody else is paying for it, the taxpayers. I’ve watched [Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders]. If you took 100 percent of everything, you still couldn’t afford [free college tuition]. The colleges are not watching their costs because they don’t care. The government keeps giving [students] more and more money and they just give it to the colleges.”
— On President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran: “One of the dumbest deals I’ve ever seen.”
— On America’s military alliances abroad: “NATO is obsolete, it’s expensive. We have to go to Japan, we have to go to South Korea, we have to go to Saudi Arabia, where they’ve got money like nobody’s ever seen, and we’re defending them. We go [to them] and say, look, you’ve got to pay more. We go to Japan, we go to these countries and we make a better deal. But you’ve got to be willing to walk [away]. They might have to defend themselves.”