Bud Kennedy

Trump: In and out of politics, and now in and out of Texas

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks to reporters after arriving for a visit to the U.S. Mexico border in Laredo
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks to reporters after arriving for a visit to the U.S. Mexico border in Laredo AP

Donald Trump already ran for president once.

Back on Feb. 14, 2000, he was drawing a whopping 3 percent of the vote in polls against George W. Bush and Al Gore when he quit as a Reform Party candidate backed by former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura.

“New York wants me. Texas wants me,” Trump insisted to NBC Today host Matt Lauer, but explained, “I don’t want to get 20 percent of the vote.”

After a whole four months of campaigning, he said he was sitting in Florida watching Gore on TV campaigning door to door in icy weather when he decided, “It’s not such an easy life.”

Fifteen years later, at 69, the New York Republican seems no more anxious to knock on icy doors in Iowa or New Hampshire. He barely tolerated a short and steamy trip to Laredo last week.

On a three-hour visit originally meant as a border tour, Trump demonstrated his cultural sensitivity by speaking Spanish.

Well, he said one word: “silencio.”

He spoke to City Manager Jesus Olivares as he would to an employee, motioning for him to intervene with a hostile press corps and saying, “Come on, Jesus, say a word.”

Having already sued Univision for $500 million, Trump completed his grand slam of Spanish-language television networks, shouting down Noticiero Telemundo network co-anchor Jose Luis-Balart’s question about Trump’s past description of illegal border-crossers as rapists and murderers.

He even nearly delivered a trademark “You’re fired.”

To loud applause, he told Luis-Balart, “You’re finished.”

From Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley, UT Pan American political science professor Jerry Polinard said Trump’s visit was successful, if only because it made voters forget his comments last weekend critical of U.S. Sen. John McCain.

It was a “good photo op” on immigration and a border wall “shifting attention away from the McCain controversy,” Polinard said.

“However, as polling continues to show, the only wall Trump is building is one keeping Latinos out of the Republican Party.”

But it ended a week when Trump also picked up telling praise from evangelist Franklin Graham and also David Lane, the evangelical adviser who helped Rick Perry organize his 2012 “Response” prayer rally.

“Trump is tapping into deep-seated anger,” Lane was quoted as saying in the Washington Examiner conservative political magazine: “America is starving for moral, principled leadership. I hope that Donald Trump brings that.”

In a survey by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, Trump, an ecumenical Presbyterian, ran second among evangelical voters to only Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He was more popular with evangelical voters than with nonevangelicals.

That might not be the case in Texas, where Sen. Ted Cruz and former Gov. Rick Perry are on the ballot and some voters might remember his comments last year about Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly of Fort Worth.

“Stop the EBOLA patients from entering the U.S.,” he wrote on Twitter last August: “THE UNITED STATES HAS ENOUGH PROBLEMS! … People that go to far away places to help out are great —but must suffer the consequences!”

As the week ended, Trump was softening his tone on immigration, telling MSNBC that he supports a “merit system” to keep immigrants who came illegally if “they've done a good job.”

No telling what he’ll say next week.

Or if he’ll be running.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @BudKennedy

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